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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are pushing to launch their first paying customers to the edge of space.

Why it matters: If the two companies succeed, it will open up a new market in the space industry, one focused on consumer-driven demand for expensive trips to suborbital space.

Driving the news: Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin is planning to launch its first crewed flight on July 20.

  • One seat aboard the spacecraft is now being auctioned off to the highest bidder, with five other passengers not yet announced.
  • Blue Origin is still being tight-lipped on how much a typical seat onboard their New Shepard space system will cost, but Virgin Galactic's cost about $250,000.

The intrigue: Virgin Galactic went public via SPAC in 2019 and quickly became popular among traders as the first public human spaceflight company.

  • Recently, however, the company's stock has fallen in part due to delays in testing their space plane and stock selloffs by Richard Branson and Chamath Palihapitiya, who helped take the company public.
  • Blue Origin is not public, and Bezos reportedly has sold about $1 billion worth of Amazon stock per year to support the venture.
  • Going public via SPAC has become an attractive option for a number of space companies, in part because getting a space company functioning at a high level often involves a huge influx of upfront capital and a long development timeline.

The big picture: In 2019, Northern Sky Research predicted the suborbital and orbital tourism markets may be worth up to $14 billion in revenue by 2028.

  • That’s a relatively small amount of revenue compared to the satellite manufacturing and launch business — which NSR predicts will be worth $478 billion by 2029 — but experts think that space tourism could do wonders for the space industry at large, bringing more visibility and popularity to it.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 3, 2021 - Science

Boeing is getting its do-over

Boeing's Starliner awaits its launch atop an Atlas V rocket. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Boeing is set to launch a redo of an uncrewed test of its Starliner spacecraft — designed to one day carry astronauts — to the International Space Station this week.

Why it matters: This is a high-stakes test for Boeing, which failed to get its Starliner to the station during its first uncrewed test flight in December 2019.

Robinhood's IPO came amid a regulatory storm

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Robinhood, best known for its popular no-fee stock trading app, went public last Thursday while facing an unusually large legal and regulatory storm.

Why it matters: While some challenges will likely resolve, others could seriously maim the company, forcing it to right its business ship under the scrutiny and pressures of the public markets.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.