Bezos’ Blue Origin gets OK to send him, 3 others to space

Marcia Dunn
AP Aerospace Writer

Cape Canaveral, Fla. — Jeff Bezos’ rocket company has gotten government approval to launch people into space, himself included.

The Amazon founder will climb atop his New Shepard rocket next Tuesday in West Texas, joined by his brother, an 82-year-old female aviation pioneer and a $28 million auction winner. It will be the first launch with passengers for Blue Origin, which like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic plans to start flying paying customers in the months ahead.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued its OK on Monday. The license is good through August.

FILE - In this Thursday, May 9, 2019, file photo, Jeff Bezos speaks at an event before unveiling Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander, in Washington.

Blue Origin’s flight – featuring an automated capsule launched atop a reusable booster — should reach a maximum altitude of roughly 66 miles before parachuting into the desert.

Joining Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic in the chase for space tourists is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But SpaceX plans to send its customers into orbit, not on brief up-and-down hops. Musk has yet to commit to a launch himself.

Bezos, 57, stepped down last week as Amazon’s CEO. He founded Blue Origin in 2000.

On Sunday, Virgin Galactic’s billionaire founder Richard Branson rode his own rocket plane to space, accompanied by five company employees. A specially designed aircraft carried the winged ship aloft over New Mexico. The space plane dropped away, fired its rocket motor and soared to 53.5 miles (86 kilometers), before gliding to a runway touchdown.

The brief, up-and-down flight — the space plane’s portion took only about 15 minutes, or about as long as Alan Shepard’s first U.S. spaceflight in 1961 — was a splashy and unabashedly commercial plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to start taking paying customers on joyrides next year.

Branson, 71, became the first person to blast off in his own spaceship. He also became the second septuagenarian to go into space. Astronaut John Glenn flew on the shuttle at age 77 in 1998.

The flamboyant, London-born founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways wasn’t supposed to fly until later this summer. But he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos announced plans to ride his own rocket into space from Texas on July 20.