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In an interview for a Seattle news outlet, a Blue Origin official inadvertently hinted that the program was experiencing delays. Her words:
New Shepard will be flying Blue Origin employees by the end of this year, assuming our test program continues to go well. Within the next year or two, we’ll have paying customers, which is really exciting.
This vague statement confirms an earlier statement by another Blue Origin official, that the first manned test flights will not occur until the very end of this year, and that paying customers might not fly until 2020. It appears that there might be issues that are causing the New Shepard project to slow down. It could be the hardware, or maybe the company is reconsidering the profitability of suborbital tourism. By 2020 both SpaceX and Boeing will have the capability of putting tourists into orbit. The price might be much higher, but a large percentage of the customers who could afford the suborbital flight could also afford the orbital flight, and if they need to pick many are going to go orbital, reducing the customer base for the suborbital business.