The four people on board, none of whom are professional astronauts, are Jared Isaacman, a billionaire businessman; Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant and childhood cancer survivor; Chris Sembroski, an Air Force veteran; and Dr. Sian Proctor, a geoscientist and science communication specialist.
Sembroski, who is a Lockheed Martin employee, said in a SpaceX press conference on Tuesday that he wanted to play his ukulele onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship.
“I’m very excited that I’ll be able to try my hand at playing some music on the ukulele up in space,” he said. “I apologize for any ears listening intently but I’ll give it my best shot.”
He added that “the acoustics are pretty good in Dragon.”
The items they want to take to space will be auctioned to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, where Arceneaux works as a physician assistant.
These include 51 non-fungible tokens (NFTs), including one by rock band Kings of Leon, according to a mission statement sent Friday.
“We’re going to jam to it in orbit and later auction it,” Arceneaux said in the SpaceX press conference on Tuesday.
The other 50 NFTs up for auction are pieces of art created by different artists, Inspiration4’s statement said.
Proctor said in the Tuesday press conference that she was taking her own art and poetry into space, as well as artwork from students at the community college where she teaches.
The crew is also planning to pack a TIME magazine with their autographs on, Inspiration4 mission jackets, and toys based on characters from the animated children’s series “Space Racers,” the statement said.
“We’re actually going to be impacted this year with the lack of liquid oxygen for launch,” Shotwell said during a Space Symposium panel, per a video uploaded to YouTube by ExpovistaTV. “We certainly are going to make sure hospitals have the liquid oxygen they need,” she said, without elaborating.
“For anybody that has liquid oxygen to spare, would you send me an email?” she added.
Shotwell, who is also SpaceX’s chief operating officer, also said the worldwide microchip shortage had delayed new user terminals for the company’s satellite internet project, Starlink.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that SpaceX had shipped 100,000 user Starlink terminals, which come as part of the user kit and connect to the company’s satellites in orbit. The service is now operating in 14 countries, he said – Starlink’s goal is to build a high-speed internet network that covers the world.
It’s not clear if the company sold any private tickets before it officially opened sales on Tuesday. Insider contacted Blue Origin for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
“The demand is very, very high,” Bezos said. “So we’re going to keep after that, because we really do want to practice with this vehicle.
“We’re going to have to build more boosters to fly more frequently, and we’re going to be doing that and working on the operational things we need to do,” Bezos told reporters.
Bezos and Blue Origin didn’t disclose seat prices for the journey, which travels 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.
A seat next to Bezos on New Shepard went for $28 million in the company’s auction in June. The winner pulled out due to “scheduling conflicts,” and Oliver Daeman, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands who also placed a bid, took the seat instead. He was Blue Origin’s first paying customer.
Just a month after leaving Amazon, Bezos flew into space onboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
It’s a sign that, having left Amazon, Bezos is dedicating more time to Blue Origin, the space company he founded in 2000. The company’s aim is to transform space travel.
In a letter to Amazon employees in February, Bezos said that as Amazon’s executive chairman he would “stay engaged in important Amazon initiatives but also have the time and energy I need to focus” on projects such as Blue Origin, the Washington Post, his Day 1 Fund, and the Bezos Earth Fund.
Bezos will therefore be more involved in Blue Origin going forward. The company wants to continue to build more rockets and engines to launch people, and other payloads, beyond Earth’s orbit, and to ultimately colonize the solar system.
“We’re committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future,” the company says on its website.
What is Blue Origin?
Blue Origin is an American aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight company headquartered in Kent, Washington. It’s owned by Bezos and is currently headed by CEO Bob Smith.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, and says it’s his ‘most important work’
Bezos, the world’s second-richest person, founded Blue Origin in September 2000, with the goal of making space travel cheap, frequent, and more accessible, through reusable launch systems.
Bezos said in a 2018 interview with Axel Springer that the spaceflight company was his “most important work,” – more important than Amazon.
“I’m pursuing this work because I believe if we don’t, we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis, which I find very demoralizing,” he said.
The billionaire’s passion for his space-travel company stems from his childhood. Insider’s Dave Mosher reported in 2018 that Bezos spent his childhood summers on his grandparents’ large ranch in South Texas learning about machinery. He also went to the local library to read science fiction novels about space exploration.
Blue Origin’s motto is “Gradatim Ferociter,” Latin for “step by step, ferociously.”
Bezos often uses the hashtag in his Instagram posts about the firm.
What Blue Origin will do next
In July’s flight, Bezos flew to the edge of space with three crewmates: his brother Mark; 82-year-old aviator Wally Funk; and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman from the Netherlands. The 11-minute flight was Blue Origin’s first crewed mission, and it traveled 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Blue Origin has a host of projects in the pipeline for Bezos to get stuck into.
NASA greenlighted Blue Origin in December for future Earth observation missions, planetary expeditions, and satellite launches with its New Glenn rocket, taking the space company one step closer to the stars.
In May, Blue Origin was awarded $1 billion from NASA to produce initial designs for a human-landing system for the Artemis 3 mission, which aims to land humans on the moon in 2024.
Blue Origin is competing against Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics to land NASA astronauts on the moon in 2024. Bezos said in an Instagram post in December the company could possibly take the first woman there, too.
The aerospace firm was also among 17 US companies to be picked by NASA in November to develop new tech for space missions to “the moon and beyond.” The selected companies will get access to NASA’s testing facilities and expertise, which it valued at about $15.5 million.
The rockets in Blue Origin’s pipeline
Bezos is pouring billions into the design, building, and launching of Blue Origin’s orbital and suborbital space vehicles.
The company’s New Shepard suborbital rocket, named after Alan Shepard, who was the first American to go into space, ultimately aims to offer a 100-kilometer (62-mile) journey above Earth’s surface that lasts 11 minutes.
The New Glenn rocket, named after pioneering astronaut John Glenn, is a 310-foot reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle that can carry payloads to orbit.
Blue Origin said that New Glenn is designed for a minimum of 25 flights, and can lift 45 tons into low-Earth orbit – as a comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy can lift 70 tons into low-Earth orbit. It’s expected to be launched in 2021.
In 2019, Bezos unveiled a giant lunar lander called “Blue Moon” that he said is “going to the moon” and would help Blue Origin populate space. The final goal is to establish what the company calls a “sustained human presence” on the moon.
Blue Origin has also developed five rocket engines since its founding – BE-1, BE-2, BE-3, BE-4, and BE-7. In line with the company’s reusability objective, the engines are designed for multiple uses and are tested at its test site in Van Horn, Texas.
“Great to start the morning with a friend,” Branson said in a tweet two hours before the flight.
A Virgin Galactic spokesperson confirmed Musk’s purchase to The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, but didn’t clarify how high Musk was on the waiting list.
A ticket for a one-hour trip on Virgin Galactic’s space plane costs $250,000 – that also includes training and a spacesuit. About 600 people across 58 countries have already reserved a ticket on VVS Unity, including the celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga.
Blue Origin’s relationship with one of its closest partners, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), has soured over delays to rocket engines, according to a new Ars Technica report.
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company, is building two engines for the ULA’s Vulcan rocket. The ULA wanted to launch the rocket into space this year, but the engines have been delayed, Ars reported. The Vulcan rocket is a two-stage launch vehicle that is set to send satellites into orbit for the US Space Force.
“There is great concern about this engine development,” one industry source told Ars. “There is great concern that Blue is not putting enough attention and priority on the engine.”
ULA CEO Tory Bruno isn’t showing the full extent of his concern to the public, the source added.
“He’s protecting Blue Origin,” a second industry source told Ars, commenting on Bruno’s lack of public criticism of the engine delay. “It does no good to throw Blue Origin under the bus.”
Bruno had previously said he expected the rocket to launch in 2021. But he told Aviation Week in June that the first launch had been nudged back to 2022.
Blue Origin and the ULA announced their partnership to fund the development of the new BE-4 rocket engines in 2014.
The ULA may not be happy with how its collaboration with Blue Origin worked out, “but for now they have no recourse but to make the marriage with Blue Origin work,” a third industry source told Ars.
Space Force officials are also annoyed about the delay because they want to start flying the rocket, the sources told Ars. This additional tension has put even more pressure on Blue Origin engineers, they added.
Insider asked the ULA and Blue Origin for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The ULA declined to comment to Ars on when Blue Origin’s rocket engines are expected to be finished. It also declined to comment to Ars on any fallout with Bezos’ company.
Industry sources told Ars the ULA chose Blue Origin’s engine over one designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It’s unlikely the ULA would reconsider Aerojet’s engines, they added.
NASA has released new photos of its newly-assembled Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket, its most powerful launch vehicle built since the 1960s.
The rocket was assembled on Friday at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
The launcher will be the first SLS rocket, a new type of rocket designed to bring astronauts to the moon – and eventually to Mars, the BBC reported.
NASA aims to launch the rocket by November 2021, one of a series of missions aimed to send humans back to the moon for the first time since 1972.
This photo shows the 212-foot core module of the rocket, which was placed in between the smaller booster rockets:
-NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (@NASAGroundSys) June 12, 2021
And this timelapse shows the 188,000-pound core stage being lifted after assembly, ready to be added to the boosters:
-NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems (@NASAGroundSys) June 11, 2021
The first version of the SLS rocket is called Block 1. Once assembled, the rocket would weigh about 8.8 million pounds, and stand 363 feet tall. That’s bigger than the Statue of Liberty, which is 305 feet tall with its pedestal.
The powerful launcher is able to carry almost 60,000 pounds to orbit. That’s enough to carry the Orion space capsule, which will be used to bring astronauts to space in future missions.
Before it is fully assembled, the core module needs to be topped by an adapter, and the space capsule needs to be lowered onto the rocket to top it off.
The rocket should carry humans to the moon by 2024
NASA aims to launch the rocket on its first flight as early as October 2021. The rocket’s maiden flight is the first of three missions NASA has planned to bring humans back to the moon.
This first mission will be unmanned because it aims to test the rocket’s ability to bring the capsule to the moon and back, as Insider previously reported.
The core module is flanked by two powerful rocket boosters
The twin boosters on either side of the rocket’s core module – pictured below before the core module was lowered between them – can produce 3.6 million pounds of thrust in just two minutes to lift the rocket into space.
The core stage itself has powerful engines, producing about 2 million pounds of thrust.
The engines will provide the power to make the Orion space capsule travel at a speed of 24,500 miles per hour, the speed needed to send it to the moon.
NASA plans to use SLS launchers to go to Mars
SLS rockets are NASA’s modern equivalent to the Saturn V launchers, which were used in the Apollo missions.
Saturn V launchers have not been of as much use in the past 20 years, during which astronauts have been going to the International Space Station, the BBC reported. But the moon is about 1,000 times farther from Earth, so a more powerful launcher is needed.
NASA has big ambitions for the SLS rocket. It is designed to be flexible and adaptable, and could be used to send missions to Mars, Saturn, or Jupiter.
The next version of the rocket, Block 2, will be designed to carry more than 101,400 pounds of payload.
It will be the “workhorse vehicle” for sending cargo to the Moon, Mars, and other deep-space destinations, according to NASA.
The winning bid for a seat on Blue Origin’s first-ever space tourism flight came in at an eye-popping $28 million during a Saturday live auction.
The winner will be joining Blue Origin’s founder Jeff Bezos on the New Shepard spacecraft for an 11-minute trip to the edge of space scheduled to blast off on July 20. The name of the winner shelling out the $28 million will be released in coming weeks, the company said.
Bezos announced on Monday he would be aboard the New Shepard’s first flight with a full human crew that will include his brother, Mark Bezos. The Amazon founder has said he intends to spend more time focusing on Blue Origin after he steps down as Amazon CEO later this year.
Bidding on Saturday opened at $4.8 million and quickly shot up to $28 million. Blue Origin opened the auction for a seat on the inaugural crewed New Shepard flight on May 5 and more than 7,000 people from 159 countries registered, the company said on Saturday. Some of those bidders will be contacted about taking a seat on future space flights, the company said.
In order to qualify for the “Astronaut Experience,” participants must meet a series of requirements set forth by Blue Origin, including the ability to deal with heights, walk on uneven surfaces, and handle up to three times the individual’s weight. The participant will fill out a long series of waivers, as well as complete a special Blue Origin training program.
Bezos and the rest of the crew will float around the cabin of the spacecraft for just three minutes before strapping in again for the descent back to the ground.
Blue Origin, founded in 2000, plans to use this launch system to carry tourists up to the edge of space. New Shepard’s goal is simple: Give paying customers the ride of their lives. Passengers will get a few minutes of stunning views out of the largest windows of any spaceship in the world.
The VSS Unity took off from Spaceport America, New Mexico, with a three-person crew Saturday. Once it reached a speed of Mach 3, the mothership VMS Eve, released it, and the VSS Unity reached space at an altitude of 55.45 miles before returning to the spaceport, the company said in a Saturday press release.
“Today’s flight showcased the inherent elegance and safety of our spaceflight system, while marking a major step forward for both Virgin Galactic and human spaceflight in New Mexico,” Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier said in the statement, adding that the company is making “the dream of private space travel a reality.”
Social media chatter around the commercial space-flight company took off following the flight. Virgin Galactic was the top stock in conversation among Reddit retail traders Monday with the flight being the most talked about subject, according to data from Hype Equity, which tracks pages like Wall Street Bets.
The company’s rocket failed to reach outer space in December, and then in February, it delayed a test flight because of electromagnetic interference.
Following the review of all test data and inspection of the spaceship and mothership, the company said it plans to proceed with the next flight test milestone.
Shares of the Las Cruces, New Mexico-based space tourism company, which went public in October 2019 with a SPAC, have largely declined this year after the failed test flight and after the company’s founder, Richard Branson, and its chairman Chamath Palihapitiya, sold their stakes in the business.
Retail traders on platforms such as Wall Street Bets drove the stock price to all-time highs in January and February, as it became a favorite on the subreddit amid high short-seller interest. Shares reached an all-time high of $52.41 in February, but gave back those gains in the following months, closing at $21.07 on May 21.
In pre-market trading Monday morning, shares traded about 20% higher at around $25.
In the Saturday press release, the company said the flight “gives Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronaut customers a glimpse of what lies ahead.”
SpaceX is planning for its first Starship rocket orbital test flight to launch from Texas and splash down off the coast of Hawaii, according to the company’s filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday.
Over the past year, SpaceX has launched five prototypes of its Starship rocket into the skies. The first fourburst into flames on landing, but the fifth test flight, with Starship serial No. 15, or SN15, proved successful. This allowed SpaceX to move to the next step of Elon Musk’s goal to reach Mars.
The company’s FCC filings said the test flight, comprised of the Starship rocket and a Super Heavy booster, would blast off from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. It did not give a projected launch date. The plan is for the booster to separate from the rocket nearly three minutes into the flight, and return to land roughly 20 miles from shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, the Starship rocket is set to continue into orbit, the filing said. SpaceX plans for it to travel almost all the way around the Earth before plummeting back into the atmosphere, and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 62 miles off the northwest coast of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands.
The orbital test flight should last around 90 minutes, the filing said.
The five prototypes the aerospace company has already launched were the upper stage of a two-part rocket system for Starship. Now that the 16-story upper stage is able to reach high altitude smoothly, SpaceX will add on a 23-story booster called Super Heavy.
The Super Heavy booster will try to heave the nearly 400 feet tall spaceship towards orbit.
SpaceX’s ultimate goal is for the Starship to carry humans into low-Earth orbit, to the moon, and to Mars, then return to Earth to repeat the journey again. In April, NASA awarded SpaceX an exclusive contract to land the first humans on the moon since 1972.