Want to go to space? Well pack your bags, because private company Blue Origin says it will be ready to start launching space tourists by April 2019.
That timeline was revealed by Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, in a speech to the National Space Council in Virginia on Thursday – you know, the one where NASA’s goalposts were moved yet again.
"Within the next 18 months we're going to be launching humans into space," he said, reported CNN. "These won't be astronauts... these will be everyday citizens."
Blue Origin had actually originally touted an earlier launch date of 2018, with test flights in 2017, so this comes as something of a delay. If Elon Musk sticks to his own schedule, Blue Origin may be beaten by SpaceX, who hope to launch two tourists around the Moon by the end of 2018.
Before they start launching regular people, Blue Origin is expected to complete some test flights with pilots and engineers next year. It will be launching people on its reusable New Shepard rocket, which has successfully flown to space five times unmanned.
The flights will only go to sub-orbit, basically going up and straight back down. On top of the rocket will be a capsule containing the passengers, which will separate from the rocket in space. The capsule will then land via parachute, while the rocket will land back on the ground using its thruster.
These flights will last about 11 minutes, but it’s unknown how much they will cost. If they are successful, it will be a pretty big slap in the face to companies like Virgin Galactic, who have been trying for years to kickstart space tourism but have been plagued by delays. A ticket on Virgin Galactic costs $250,000.
Blue Origin has bigger plans, too. It’s developing a rocket called New Glenn that it wants to use to take people into actual orbit. After that, it has plans for something called “New Armstrong”, which we don’t know anything about yet. From its name, though, you could guess it’s something to do with the Moon.
Will we really have at least two companies launching paying tourists to space by 2019? Who knows. There are only so many times we can deal with empty promises. Let’s hope this isn’t one of those.