But Bezos’ flight, and the technology his company developed to get him there, is far different than Branson’s. Blue Origin’s New Shepard is a small, suborbital rocket that takes off vertically from a launch pad, giving a shorter yet higher-speed experience than the aerial-launched space plane created by Branson’s Virgin Galactic. But much like Virgin Galactic’s plane, New Shepard is designed to shuttle paying customers more than dozens of miles above the Earth’s surface for a few moments of weightlessness and panoramic views of the Earth.
CNN Business will be sharing the livestream and running a live blog with updates.
Here’s everything you need to know before the big event.
What will happen?
When most people think about spaceflight, they think about an astronaut circling the Earth, floating in space, for at least a few days.
That is not what the Bezos brothers and their fellow passengers will be doing.
They’ll be going up and coming right back down, and they’ll be doing it in less time, about 11 minutes, than it takes most people to get to work.
Visually, Blue Origin’s livestream will look much the same as most of the New Shepard test launches of years past have looked: The rocket and capsule will be sitting on a launch pad at Blue Origin’s private facilities in rural Texas — near Van Horn, which is about 120 miles east of El Paso.
How is this different from what SpaceX and Virgin Galactic do?
Bezos’ flight will come just nine days after British billionaire Richard Branson took his own supersonic joy ride to the edge of space, the result of a surprise announcement that came from his space company, Virgin Galactic, days after Bezos announced his intention to go to space.
The two men’s companies — and their PR machines — have since entered into a public back-and-forth, though the billionaires themselves have said they’re not interested in racing to become the first to actually rocket into space aboard a craft they helped fund.
But suborbital space tourism isn’t all that Branson and Bezos are pursuing with their space ventures. Nor is it the largest or most important sector in the burgeoning commercial space industry.
Branson, Musk and Bezos, however, have all been compared for years because of their similarities — all three men used fortune they accrued through other lines of business to pursue space-focused ventures. Here’s how they break down:
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has for years been making headlines and breaking records with its rocket technology — and it is far different than what Blue Origin will debut on Tuesday.
Suborbital flights, however, don’t need to travel nearly as fast. They need only reach an altitude above the 50 miles mark — which the US government considers to mark the edge of outer space — or the 62-mile mark, which is internationally considered the demarcating line. (New Shepard is expected to reach over 62 miles.)
What New Shepard will do on Tuesday will more closely resemble what Richard Branson — the other, other space billionaire — is planning to do with his company, Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic is also planning to launch wealthy tourists to suborbital space, though it developed a much different vehicle to get there. Rather than an autonomous rocket that takes off vertically, Virgin Galactic has built a piloted space plane that takes off from a runway (much like an airplane) attached to a massive winged mothership.
Virgin Galactic has completed test flights of its own, and Branson became the first billionaire to fly to space aboard a rocket he helped fund on July 11.
How risky is this?
Space travel is, historically, fraught with danger. Though the risks are not necessarily astronomical for Bezos’ jaunt to suborbital space, as his space company Blue Origin has spent the better part of the last decade running New Shepard through a series of successful test flights.
Suborbital flights also require far less power and speed than orbital rockets. That means less time the rocket is required to burn, lower temperatures scorching the outside of the spacecraft, less force and compression ripping at the spacecraft, and generally fewer opportunities for something to go very wrong.
Still, any time a human straps themselves into a rocket, there are risks involved — and Bezos has apparently calculated that, for him, it’s worth it.
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