Blue Origin’s suborbital space ticket sales are nearing $100M, Jeff Bezos says

Four spacefliers at post-landing briefing
Oliver Daemen, Mark Bezos and Jeff Bezos listen to their New Shepard crewmate, Wally Funk, describe their suborbital space trip. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

VAN HORN, Texas — Blue Origin hasn’t yet revealed how much it’s charging for suborbital space trips, but founder Jeff Bezos said his space venture has already brought in nearly $100 million in private sales.

And those sales were made even before today’s first crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship, with Bezos and three crewmates on board.

The first big step in Blue Origin’s sales effort was last month’s auction for an open seat on today’s flight. A yet-to-be-identified bidder won the reservation at a price of $28 million, but Blue Origin said the bidder had to defer that reservation due to a scheduling conflict. That’s how 18-year-old Oliver Daemen wound up flying today. He became the world’s youngest spacefarer in the process.

After the auction, Blue Origin executives contacted some of the bidders who lost out in the auction to offer seats on follow-up flights.

“One thing we found out through the auction process, and what we’ve been doing as private sales — we’re approaching $100 million in private sales already, and the demand is very, very high,” he said during a post-landing briefing at Blue Origin’s West Texas spaceport.

Bezos hinted that Blue Origin would continue with the private-sales approach. “We’re going to keep after that,” he said.

New Shepard and crew
Blue Origin’s first suborbital space crew does a photo op in front of the New Shepard rocket booster that lifted them skyward and then flew itself back to a landing. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

The fact that the asking price is still largely a mystery is unusual. Launch providers and their customers are typically loath to talk about price tags, but estimates leak out nevertheless.

For example, the price for an orbital trip to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is thought to be around $55 million, and Virgin Galactic was charging suborbital space passengers $250,000 before sales were suspended several years ago.

Blue Origin would have to charge significantly more than $250,000 to approach $100 million in sales so quickly.

Bezos said two more crewed New Shepard flights are due to go up by the end of the year. “What we do in the following year, I’m not sure yet,” he said. “We’ll figure that out.” In any case, he aims to set a speedy cadence and build more rocket ships.

“It’s not only adventure … but it’s also important, because what we’re doing is the first step of something big,” he said. “And I know what that feels like. I did it almost three decades ago with Amazon.”

Bezos stepped back from his CEO role at Amazon earlier this month, and today he acknowledged that he’d use some of the time that’s been freed up to concentrate on Blue Origin. “I’m going to split my time between Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund,” he said. “The Bezos Earth Fund is about climate change and sustainability … and there’s going to be a third thing, and maybe a fourth thing, but I don’t know what those are yet.”

Before today’s launch, Bezos noted that many astronauts said they felt a change in perspective when they looked at Earth from space. After the landing, the world’s richest individual said he could feel the change as well.

“The most profound piece of it for me was looking out at the Earth, and looking at Earth’s atmosphere from space,” he said. “Everybody who’s been up in space, they say this: that it changes them when they look at it, and they’re amazed and awestruck by the Earth and its beauty — but also by its fragility. And I can vouch for that.”

Today’s news briefing was chock-full of ceremony and celebration, including Bezos’ announcement of a new $100 million prize program called the Courage and Civility Award. Two of the awards were handed out onstage, to political commentator Van Jones and chef/philanthropist Jose Andres.

Here are other highlights from today’s wide-ranging news briefing:

  • All four spacefliers were awarded custom-designed pins that are meant to serve as Blue Origin’s equivalent of astronaut wings. The pins incorporate the company’s feather logo, wings that take the shape of the letter A, and a tiny blue sapphire representing Earth.
  • Among the VIPs at the gathering were two daughters of the late NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, who made a milestone suborbital spaceflight in 1961 and served as the namesake for the New Shepard spaceship.
  • During his flight, Bezos wore a necklace with a Blue Origin feather pendant — and at the briefing, he gave the necklace to his mother, Jacklyn Bezos.
  • A piece of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, a golden medallion commemorating the first balloon flight in 1783, and the aviator glasses that pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart wore during her solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1932 were among the mementos flown on New Shepard. Bezos went so far as to model the glasses. Turning to one of his crewmates, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk, Bezos said, “I like to think that if Amelia were here, she’d be very, very proud of Wally.”
  • Wally Funk, who is now the world’s oldest spaceflier at the age of 82, stole the show with her enthusiastic review of the ride. “I want to go again, fast!” she said. All four of the fliers, including Jeff’s brother Mark, could be seen doing zero-G gymnastics in a video released by Blue Origin. We’ve teed up that footage in the YouTube video link below:
Tags
Space Blue origin Jeff bezos New shepard Space tourism Suborbital spaceflight