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EXCLUSIVE-Jeff Bezos plans to charge at least $200,000 for space rides -sources

SEATTLE, July 12 (Reuters) – Jeff Bezos’ rocket company plans to charge passengers about $200,000 to $300,000 for its first trips into space next year, two people familiar with its plans told Reuters.

Potential customers and the aerospace industry have been eager to learn the cost of a ticket on Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle, to find out if it is affordable and whether the company can generate enough demand to make a profit on space tourism.

Executives at the company, started by Amazon.com Inc founder Bezos in 2000, told a business conference last month they planned test flights with passengers on the New Shepard soon, and to start selling tickets next year.

The company, based about 20 miles (32 km) south of Seattle, has made public the general design of the vehicle – comprising a launch rocket and detachable passenger capsule – but has been tight-lipped on production status and ticket prices.

Blue Origin representatives did not respond to requests for comment on its programs and pricing strategy. Bezos said in May ticket prices had not yet been decided.

One Blue Origin employee with first-hand knowledge of the pricing plan said the company will start selling tickets in the range of about $200,000 to $300,000. A second employee said tickets would cost a minimum of $200,000. They both spoke on condition of anonymity as the pricing strategy is confidential.

The New Shepard is designed to autonomously fly six passengers more than 62 miles (100 km) above Earth into suborbital space, high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before the pressurized capsule returns to earth under parachutes.

The capsule features six observation windows Blue Origin says are nearly three times as tall as those on a Boeing Co 747 jetliner.