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Jeff Bezos and other space travelers fly at their own risk

when

Jeff Bezos

Climb the New Shepard Capsule for the first passenger space trip next month. His safety is almost entirely in the hands of the space flight company he founded 20 years ago.

Mr. Bezos I plan to join a small band of tourists who flew in space When emerging industries are preparing to launch hundreds of people into the sky. So far, they are not protected by the rigorous federal safety regulations that govern commercial air travel.

Passengers planning to board New Shepard must sign a form waiving Mr. Bezos’ right to sue Blue Origin LLC in the event of an accident.Richard Branson’s

Virgin Galactic Holdings Co., Ltd.

SPCE 3.33%

We plan to send paid passengers to the spaceplane as early as next year, but similar steps are needed.

Congress agreed in 2004 to allow the space travel industry to self-regulate to speed up passenger flight preparation.Years of delay, including accidents Killed Virgin Galactic test pilot in 2014, Postponed the start of the fare-paying passenger flight. The policy has been extended several times and is now in effect until October 2023.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s jurisdiction is limited to public safety and environmental protection between launch and re-entry, a spokesman for the agency said. “Parliament does not allow the FAA to extend its authority to the safety of crew or space flight participants,” a spokesman said.

Regulators, lawmakers and industry executives are discussing whether to introduce stricter rules, such as requiring passengers to be trained on the rigors of reaching the edge of space. Both companies already offer some training for short flights. This includes periods of high G-force and disorientation that may be associated with weightlessness.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have stated that they are following rigorous testing and safety standards while preparing to start selling tickets. Analysts expect a short up-and-down flight, including a few minutes of weightlessness, to cost as much as $ 500,000. Blue Origin flights take about 10 minutes. Virgin Galactic takes more than two hours as a spacecraft is launched from an airplane that must first climb to high altitude.

Bezos will be attending a flight scheduled for July 20th with his brother Mark Bezos and the winner of a charity auction ending on Saturday.

So far, more than 6,000 bidders from 143 countries have participated in the auction, according to Blue Origin. The highest bid on Thursday morning was $ 4 million. Like Virgin Galactic, the company does not comment on future ticket prices.

Blue Origin said potential passengers would have to run to the top of the company’s launch tower (about seven steps) in 90 seconds and fit in a spacesuit. Beyond that, it does not require passengers to undergo a medical examination before flying and will refer their health concerns to their doctor. Virgin Galactic officials said flight preparation included medical consultations.

Jeff Bezos’ trip will make him one of the few amateurs in space.


Photo:

Blue Origin Handout / Shutterstock

Both companies provide training over a couple of days. Virgin Galactic preparation includes sessions with pilots, weightlessness instruction, and time in cabin mockups. The company offers passengers time with an optional flight on an aircraft that simulates weightlessness and a centrifuge that recreates some of the forces that astronauts experience during flight.

Blue Origin said the training required to travel on a spacecraft is minimal. “We have knowledge of safety features and preparations for moving into space on a fully autonomous New Shepard rocket,” said a spokesman.

The cost of launching into space means that rockets and capsules are less thoroughly tested in flight than commercial aircraft. Sent in thousands of hours of test flights Before carrying paid customers.

Virgin Galactic’s test program was hit by an in-flight collapse in 2014, killing a test pilot. Accident investigators attributed the crash to a design flaw due to Scaled Composites LLC. The company that manufactured the spacecraft, It made it possible for pilot errors to lead to accidents.

A Virgin Galactic spokeswoman said Virgin Galactic took over the design and manufacture of the spacecraft.

Aside from the risks associated with spacecraft, some passengers will probably experience more serious medical problems than the mild ear effects commonly known on airline flights, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space. Dr. Jeffrey Jones, an aviation surgeon who worked with the aviator, said. He said that many people vomit when they first encounter weightlessness and passengers can also be injured if they are not properly anchored when gravity returns.

“Passengers are part of the safety system and we need to know what will happen,” said David Allen, Head of Operations at Blue Sky Flight Training LLC. It has helped dozens of astronauts prepare for space.

Star tour

More WSJ coverage on commercial space travel, selected by the editor.

Write to Matt Grossman matt.grossman@wsj.com And with Doug Cameron doug.cameron@wsj.com

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Jeff Bezos and other space travelers fly at their own risk

Source link Jeff Bezos and other space travelers fly at their own risk

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