Internet billionaire and aspiring rocket man Jeff Bezos said he sells US$1bn/year in Amazon.com stock to fund Blue Origin, the company fuelling his dream of sending people into space.
“My business model right now for Blue Origin is I sell about a billion a year of Amazon stock and I use it to fund Blue Origin,” Bezos said Wednesday at the Space Symposium, an annual industry conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “So the business model for Blue Origin is very robust.”
Bezos, the world’s second wealthiest man behind Bill Gates, has said before that he has been reinvesting money he made at e-commerce giant Amazon since he started his space exploration company more than a decade ago.
On Wednesday, he unveiled what he thinks is just the thing to entice people to pay about $300 000 for a quick flight to suborbital space: big windows.
The Amazon founder took a page from waterfront hotels and restaurants in the design of a space capsule that Blue Origin plans to use to launch paying tourists into space within two years. The pod will be equipped with the “largest windows in spacecraft history”, according the company. It has room for six passengers, each with their own window and a reclining leather seat that will distribute the force felt when shooting into space, Blue Origin said.
“My singular focus is people in space,” Bezos said. “I want humans in space.”
Blue Origin will have competition. Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to send two tourists on a trip around the moon late next year. It reused a rocket last month to send satellites into orbit, an important step toward making space delivery and travel commercially viable. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is also pursuing the idea of blasting customers into space.
Blue Origin also is trying to reduce the cost of travel by making rockets reusable like aeroplanes. The company’s New Shepard rocket has flown to suborbital space five times since November 2015. Suborbital space is high enough for passengers to experience weightlessness, but not high enough to orbit the Earth.
Big windows like those envisioned for Blue Origin’s capsule add cost and complexity to designing spacecraft because larger glass panes have to be thicker, adding weight to a vehicle that needs to be as light as possible, said Bill Goodman, vice president of space systems at HNu Photonics. A 22-inch diameter window on the International Space Station is about 9cm thick, made from layers designed to withstand collisions with fast-moving dust particles, maintain air pressure within the capsule and a final layer that improves visibility through the thick window, he said. Despite the high cost, big windows will be a good marketing ploy for space tourism, Goodman said.
“Bigger is always better,” Goodman said. “Someone who can afford a space flight is probably going to have a really nice camera and want to take some nice pictures.” — (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP