Blue Origin will soon offer tourists a ride to space but only after completing its own crewed flight tests, the company told CNBC on Friday.
Ticket pricing for passengers has yet to be determined, the company said in a statement to CNBC. A Reuters report Thursday cited two company employees as saying tickets are expected to cost between $200,000 and $300,000 each.
“We have not set ticket pricing and have had no serious discussions inside of Blue on the topic. We will begin selling tickets sometime after our first human flights and are focused on developing New Shepard,” the company said in a statement. “We have a flight test schedule and schedules of those types always have uncertainties and contingencies. Anyone predicting dates is guessing.”
Founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the rocket company is in the final stages of testing its New Shepard rocket, with the first crewed flight possible this year. New Shepard would bring tourists in a capsule up past 350,000 feet, where they would spend about 10 minutes floating in zero gravity before returning back to Earth.
Bezos has stated that pricing for the flights would be comparable to others offering rides to suborbital space but in May said the exact price had not been decided. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which is also in the late stages of its flight testing program, has sold more than 700 tickets at $250,000 a pop.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told CNBC in April that the company still hopes to launch humans to space before the end of the year but cautioned that the company will only “go when we’re ready.” The company further detailed the testing program’s requirements to CNBC, outlining the steps ahead.
“We will fly Blue Origin astronauts before we fly commercial passengers and haven’t done any real work on passenger selection or the ticket sale process,” the company’s statement said.
Blue Origin’s crew capsule has now traveled to space multiple times without passengers, with two flights including a test dummy called “Mannequin Skywalker.” The capsule features room for six, with massive windows providing expansive views of the Earth once in space.
New Shepard is expected to do a test in space of its capsule escape system “within weeks,” one of the employees told Reuters. That would mark the second test flight this year and the ninth for New Shepard.
The private space race continues to heat up, with Blue Origin also nearing completion of testing on the company’s thunderous BE-4 engine, which is expected to power the company’s New Glenn rocket. Bezos continues to pour about $1 billion worth of his Amazon stock into his rocket venture each year, with Blue Origin expected to begin competing directly with Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2020.