By Glenn Fleishman
September 20, 2018

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Wednesday that his separate Blue Origin space-launch company will launch a crewed mission in 2019. Bezos made his remarks at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in Washington, D.C. Bezos didn’t clarify if this meant crew or passengers.

Prior to Bezos’s comments, Blue Origin’s CEO, Bob Smith, said in late 2017 and in April 2018 that the company thought paying passengers might be lofted later in 2018.

A capsule under development, the New Shepard, has a roomy 530 cubic feet—enough for six people and 10 times the volume of Alan Shepard’s capsule for the Mercury launch. The schedule for paying customers hasn’t been set, but Bezos suggested 2020 for that earlier this year, and a company executive in June said tickets might go on sale in 2019.

Blue Origin began secretively, but began last year to openly discuss its plans to produce and operate commercially viable reusable launch vehicles. Its New Glenn launcher would boost satellites into orbit and handle missions with crews. Space tourists might pay an estimated $100,000 to $200,000 each.

Bezos received criticism for a comment he made in an interview in April 2018 when asked about his vast wealth, and what money meant to him. He said, “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel.” Bezos is the world’s richest person by far.

This came during turmoil in Amazon’s headquarters of Seattle over a per-employee tax for high-revenue companies to add to the local budget to provide housing and services for homeless people that Amazon opposed, and eventually spurred a repeal of. Just last week, however, Bezos and his wife, Mackenzie, announced a $2 billion fund to distribute funds to successful projects around homelessness and for full-scholarship, high-quality preschools.

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