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The billionaire space race and the Karman line

14 Jul 2021, 13:08 UTC
The billionaire space race and the Karman line
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On July 11, 2021, billionaire Richard Branson (pictured) and 5 other crewmates briefly experienced the effects of weightlessness in the first fully crewed sub-orbital test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane. Image via Virgin Galactic.
The billionaire space race
We can be sure of one thing. When Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson successfully rocketed to space on July 11, 2021, other billionaires were watching. In particular, Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon, owner of the Washington Post, and owner of the sub-orbital spaceflight services company Blue Origin – was already slated for his own flight to space on July 20. In fact, Inc.com reported that Virgin Galactic had moved its launch date forward so that Branson could reach space before Bezos. Did Bezos respond to Branson’s reaching space before him with a gracious nod and sincere congratulations? Sort of, but not exactly. In fact, Blue Origin posted a colorful chart (shown below) to the company’s Twitter just two days before Virgin Galactic’s July 11 flight, highlighting some differences between its own rocket and that of Virgin Galactic. The chart compares the rockets’ vehicle types down to their window sizes. And it points to an internationally recognized boundary to space, called ...

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