Delays in New Shepard program?

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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.



  • I would hope that there could be some use from suborbital space even if it is educational based. Sending a teacher, student, and experiment in one go could be a good value proposition if the price is right.

  • Jim Davis

    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…

    You’ll have to explain how you came to this conclusion. Do you have a net worth histogram you can share?

  • Vladislaw

    Even if SpaceX and Boeing go operational by 2020 there will not be many open seats .. unless they sell a pure orbital ride.. until there is a commercial destination it will be slow ..

  • Jim Davis: I admit that this is pure speculation on my part, based on what I know of human nature. Obviously, the numbers could be different. I also hope that suborbital space can find sufficient customers to make a go of it. My increasing skepticism however is partly fueled by the longer and longer gaps in flights by New Shepard, for reasons that are unclear. I have a suspicion that Bezos has not been impressed with the email responses to various New Shepard announcements, and might be shifting his resources elsewhere.

  • It’s practically always the case that as one lowers the price on something many more people can afford it. It’s not like, if you cut the price in half, two times more people can afford it. It’s usually much more than that. That said, an orbital experience is worth much more than a brief orbital experience. But then again, the cost of an orbital flight will be much more than an orbital flight (whose full reusability remains to be demonstrated).

  • Edward

    I agree with the concept shown in Figure 7, but I also believe that when the price drops low enough, people will begin to take repeat flights; figure 7 does not seem to reflect that part of the market. Each flight may be short enough to leave them wanting more, and if you don’t have to mortgage the house to take a flight then you can afford more.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Delays don’t seem to be the exclusive province of one Mr. Elon Musk despite some people seeming to think this the case. I suspect space tourism is going to wind up being the tail wagged by the science/engineering dog. Assuming that flying an experimental apparatus costs no more than flying a human passenger, and that Blue charges no more than the $250K/seat price already set by VG, a developer of space hardware could get a half-dozen development flights of its apparatus for what Vector would charge to put a single equivalent payload into orbit. But the suborbital rides would also allow a lot of comparatively bulky and heavy instrumentation to go along with the test object that would not be possible for a launch on a smallsat booster.

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