Suborbital space tourism provider Blue Origin has announced it will auction off the first seat aboard a crewed flight of the company’s New Shepard rocket.
The reusable single-stage New Shepard rocket is designed to carry space tourists to an altitude of just above 100 kilometres, the generally agreed-upon border between Earth’s atmosphere and space known as the Karmen line. The rocket was named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard and was launched on its maiden flight in 2015.
The announcement that the first New Shepard seat will be auctioned off was made on May 5, the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s historic flight.
The auction will begin with a blind pre-bidding phase that requires participants to place a sealed bid on the Blue Origin auction website. The minimum bid is $50,000 and early reports predict that bidding could exceed $500,000.
Following the blind pre-bidding process which closes on May 19, live online pre-bidding will commence. During this phase, the blind bids will be revealed and participants will be able to raise their bids as needs be until June 10. The final stage of the process will be held on June 12 and is described as a “live online auction.”
The winning bid will secure a spot aboard the maiden crewed New Shepard flight which is slated to be launched on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
The funds raised from the auction will be donated to Blue Origin’s own foundation, Club for the Future that aims to inspire children to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
Development of the New Shepard rocket began in 2006. It has since been launched on 15 missions suffering just one partial failure on its maiden flight. A total of four New Shepard rockets have been built and launched and recovered to date.
Blue Origin launched New Shepard NS4 on its first mission on January 14 of this year as an uncrewed qualification flight. The vehicle was launched and recovered a second time on April 14 in preparation for the maiden crewed flight aboard in July.