There’s little doubt that space travel will cost an exorbitant amount once it becomes available to the average tourist. But when sources claimed that Blue Origin intends to charge at least $200,000 for rides on its New Shepard rocket, the space venture company denied the price tag, wanting to keep its price points hidden for now. The move suggests that Jeff Bezos and his team are already concerned with competitive pricing in a market that has yet to garner consumers.
Blue Origin has experienced delays since its earlier claim to fly tourists into space by 2018, a process that may have been slowed down after juggling its ongoing contracts with NASA and its plans for a moon colony. Despite that, Blue Origin executives told a business conference last month that the aerospace company expects to test flights with passengers soon and could start selling tickets as early as next year.
In the past, Blue Origin has been quick to establish such deadlines but has refused to offer details on pricing. On Thursday, two current Blue Origin employees, one of which has first-hand knowledge of the company’s current pricing plan, told Reuters that the company will sell tickets in the range of $200,000 to $300,000. While Blue Origin refuses to confirm these metrics, the number reflects a company strategy that is already concerned with competition from Virgin Galactic and SpaceX.
A Virgin Galactic Ticket Will Cost $250,000
Virgin tycoon Richard Branson has never shied away from naming prices. In 2005, the company set prices around $200,000, but after SpaceShipTwo’s first successful rocket-powered test flight in 2013, the spaceline company announced it would be raising the expected cost to $250,000 per ticket.
“It’s still about 1% of the price you would have needed to pay to go to space as a private citizen before now,” commercial director Stephen Attenborough told CNN at the time. That’s not an exaggeration: before Virgin Galactic helped build the commercial spaceline industry, the first “space tourist” was Dennis Tito, a civilian who paid nearly $20 million for a ride on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2001. It appears Blue Origin’s price point is a direct result of the market rates established by Virgin Galactic.
SpaceX Will Cost More, But Could Include More
When Elon Musk announced that two unnamed space tourists had already paid a deposit for their round trip around the Moon, the SpaceX CEO failed to mention how much, exactly, these mystery tourists paid. Like Jeff Bezos, Musk has not shared what a single ride with SpaceX might cost, but excuses that vagueness with the statement that pricing is too complex at this point, given the “ticket package” offered with a ride on the Crew Dragon.
SpaceX intends to get the Crew Dragon missions that will circumnavigate the moon before returning passengers to Earth. Citing the company’s work with NASA to get the Crew Dragon operational, it’s likely that this “ticket package” will include training sessions and a crew trained in medicine and emergency services. This isn’t to say Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic would send a civilian to space unequipped, but NASA’s involvement could suggest a more regulated structure, alongside higher prices.
While none of these travel packages are all that affordable, it’s worth noting that when NASA buys a seat on the Soyuz capsule, Russia charges the space agency over $74 million per ticket to the International Space Station. If and when consumer space tourism becomes accessible to the public, market demands will dictate in which direction these prices (and perks!) will move.