Bezos carries out inaugural space voyage

·2-min read

Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, and three crewmates have soared high above the Texas desert aboard his space venture Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle and returned to earth, a historic suborbital flight that helps to inaugurate a new era of private commercial space tourism.

The spacecraft ignited its BE-3 engines for a lift-off from Blue Origin's Launch Site One facility about 32km outside the rural town of Van Horn.

There were generally clear skies with a few patchy clouds on a cool morning for the launch.

The 57-year-old US billionaire flew on a voyage lasting about 10 minutes and 20 seconds to the edge of space, nine days after Briton Richard Branson was aboard his competing space tourism company Virgin Galactic's successful inaugural suborbital flight from New Mexico.

The mission was part of a fiercely competitive battle between Bezos' Blue Origin and fellow billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to tap a potentially lucrative space tourism market the Swiss bank UBS estimates will be worth $US3 billion ($A4.1 billion) annually in a decade.

Bezos, wearing a blue flight suit and cowboy hat, and the other passengers climbed into an SUV vehicle for a short drive to the launch pad before walking up a tower and getting aboard the gleaming white spacecraft, with a blue feather design on its side.

Each passenger rang a shiny bell before boarding the craft's capsule.

"They are in for the flight of a lifetime," launch presenter Ariane Cornell of Blue Origin said on a live webcast.

Branson got to space first, but Bezos was due to fly higher - 100km for Blue Origin compared to 86km for Virgin Galactic - in what experts call the world's first unpiloted space flight with an all-civilian crew.

It represents Blue Origin's first crewed flight to space.

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