Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said on Wednesday he is selling about $1 billion worth of the internet retailer’s stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11-minute space rides starting next year.
Blue Origin had hoped to begin test flights with company pilots and engineers in 2017, but that probably will not happen until next year, Bezos told reporters at the annual US Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
Ultimately, the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long-term goal to cut the cost of space flight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth, Bezos said.
For now, Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin is working toward far shorter hops — 11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.
Blue Origin has not started selling tickets or set prices to ride aboard its six-passenger, gumdrop-shaped capsule, known as New Shepard.
At the symposium, Bezos showed off a mock-up of the passenger capsule, which sports six reclined seats, each with its own large window. Also on display was a scorched New Shepard booster rocket that was retired in October after five flights.
Like fellow tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX, Bezos says that reusability is the key to cutting the cost of space flight. Last week, SpaceX re-launched a rocket for an unprecedented second mission to put a spacecraft into orbit.
Blue Origin is developing a second launch system to carry satellites, and eventually people, into orbit, similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule.
Development costs for that system, known as New Glenn, will be about $2.5 billion.
There is no estimate yet for how much Bezos will invest overall on Blue Origin. But Bezos has indicated he will spend what it takes.
“It’s a long road to get there and I’m happy to invest in it,” Bezos said. According to Forbes magazine, Bezos has a net worth of $78 billion.