Jeff Bezos became the second billionaire to go to space after Richard Branson succeeded earlier this month.
The competition between the billionaire owners of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic was one of the main topics of the past month. Both Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson wanted to become the first billionaire in space. Branson made the smarter move and achieved it more than a week before his rival but the most important fact is that both flew to space and there were no failures throughout the flights.
The first billionaire in space: Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic
The VSS Unity rocket plane of the private space company Virgin Galactic made a manned flight on July 11, during which it reached an altitude of 86 kilometers. There were six people on board at once, including the founder of the company, Richard Branson. The entire flight was broadcast on Youtube.
Virgin Galactic organizes tourist suborbital flights on a rocket plane, which first rises to an altitude of 15 kilometers using the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, and then starts its engines, separates from the aircraft, and rises above 80 kilometers, which the US Air Force considers the border of space.
I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do https://t.co/Wyzj0nOBgX #Unity22 @virgingalactic pic.twitter.com/03EJmKiH8V
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) July 11, 2021
At the same time, the boundary of space, adopted by the International Aviation Federation, is at an altitude of 100 kilometers, which is why not all experts consider such flights to be space. When the rocket plane engine is turned off, the passengers get a short opportunity to stay in zero gravity, as well as look at the Earth through the windows, after which the ship begins to descend and returns to the landing site. At the end of June this year, the company received official permission for commercial flights.
The first rocket plane of the company VSS Enterprise made its first flight back in 2013 but crashed in 2014. He was replaced by VSS Unity, which has already completed three manned flights.
On the evening of July 11, 2021, the ship made a new manned flight from the America cosmodrome in New Mexico, onboard, in addition to two pilots, were four employees of the company (one of them had already flown on the ship), including its founder, Richard Branson. The entire flight lasted 15 minutes, and the rocket plane reached a maximum altitude of 86 kilometers.
Virgin Galactic is now planning two more VSS Unity test flights, which will be attended by company employees and researchers from the Italian Air Force. Only then will the owners of more than 600 purchased flight tickets be able to board the plane.
Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin
The private space company Blue Origin successfully completed the first manned suborbital flight of the New Shepard reusable system. Four tourists traveled to space, including company founder Jeff Bezos and the world’s youngest and oldest astronauts. Their launch was also broadcast on Youtube.
Blue Origin has been developing the New Shepard system since 2006. It is designed for suborbital tourist flights, during which passengers will reach an altitude of more than 100 kilometers, being beyond the Karman line, which means being in space. The system is positioned as reusable and consists of a single-stage rocket and a six-seat passenger capsule.
The entire flight is automatic. The company has already conducted fifteen test flights and tested the emergency rescue system and precision landing system. We talked in more detail about the details of the flights and the future of the company in the blog.
As part of the new NS-16 flight, the fourth model of the NS-4 system made the first flight with people on board. Two included the founder of Blue Origin Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos.
The more curious passengers were 82-year-old Wally Funk, who in 1961 was selected for the program of women astronauts (known as “Mercury-13” ) but never went into space, as well as 18-year-old student Oliver Daemen, whose flight was paid for by his billionaire father and founder of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners.
Thus, the result of the flight was the flying of the youngest and oldest astronauts in the world.
The flight itself began at 16:00 Moscow time and took about 11 minutes. Initially, the rocket launched vertically upward and began to accelerate, and after three minutes a capsule separated from it, which, by inertia, continued to gain altitude and crossed the Karman line, while the passengers were able to stay for 3-4 minutes in zero gravity.
Then, the rocket landed on a pad three kilometers from the launch position, and the capsule on three parachutes made a soft landing at a speed of about 45 centimeters per second.
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• Chang, K. (2021, July 11). Branson Completes Virgin Galactic Flight, Aiming to Open Up Space Tourism. The New York Times.
• Neuman, S. (2021, July 20). Jeff Bezos And Blue Origin Travel Deeper Into Space Than Richard Branson. NPR.
• Roulette, J. (2021, July 20). Blue Origin successfully sends Jeff Bezos and three others to space and back. The Verge.
• Space.com. (2021, July 14). In photos: Virgin Galactic’s 1st fully crewed spaceflight with billionaire Richard Branson.
• Space.com. (2021, July 20). Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos launch on New Shepard: Live updates.