Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon and the world’s richest man, is set to bring his private space firm out of the dark at an event on Thursday.
Blue Origin is a privately funded space company which, similar to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, focuses on reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing rockets.
But unlike those of SpaceX, to date Blue Origin’s launches have all been sub-orbital, poking into the very edges of the Earth’s atmosphere, but have not gone high enough to enter into orbit or to completely escape the pull of the planet’s gravity.
Mr Bezos is scheduled to speak at an event in Washington DC on Thursday to announce the company’s progress in a very rare media briefing.
Blue Origin’s executives have claimed the company’s space tourism business would start delivering trips into space this year.
The firm also received a relatively miniscule $23m (£17m) from NASA, alongside the United Launch Alliance, to test using cryogenic liquid as a method of propulsion for a lunar lander system.
These sub-orbital launches have left Blue Origin trailing as a competitive aerospace company behind firms which are putting satellites into orbit.
While private sector competitors – including from fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX – have been the driving force in orbital launches in recent years, Blue Origin is targeting the space tourist market.
The market for giving very wealthy passengers the opportunity to experience weightlessness for a brief period is not the same as that for resupply missions for the International Space Station and satellite launches.
Historically space exploration, especially orbital launches which involve the spacecraft going high enough to complete an orbit of the Earth, has been so expensive and offered such uncertain returns on investment that it could only be funded by states.
Today private sector launches dominate the orbital launch numbers.
To potentially approach this market, an orbital launch vehicle called New Glenn has been announced by Blue Origin.
New Glenn has not yet been seen in public or received a test flight, which the company has suggested could take place in 2021.
It took rival firm SpaceX years of testing before its reusable Falcon 9 rockets were trusted enough to allow it to win contracts from NASA and private sector businesses which wanted to launch satellites.
Data analysis by Sky News shows that, since the 1990s, the private sector has driven investment in space exploration while states decreased the number of launches they were undertaking.
Sir Richard Branson’s commercial space ventures, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, are also hunting new funds after halting a $1bn (£775m) Saudi-funded deal after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The satellite launch service Virgin Orbit was formed in 2017 and aims to launch small satellites from a converted Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
Source: SKY NEWS