Bezos flogs Amazon stock to become rocket man

Online bookseller Jeff Bezos said he will flog $1 billion worth of his Amazon stock annually to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, which aims to launch paying passengers on 11 minute space rides starting next year.

Blue Origin had hoped to begin test flights with company pilots and engineers in 2017, but that probably will not happen until next year.

Bezos told hacks  at the annual US Space Symposium in Colorado Springs that the plan is for Blue Origin to become a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise, with a long term goal to cut the cost of space flight so that millions of people can live and work off Earth, Bezos said.

Bezos is Amazon’s largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling $1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Bezos’ total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 percent stake in the company, are worth $73.54 billion at Wednesday’s closing price.

Initially Blue Origin will work for  11 minute space rides that are not fast enough to put a spaceship into orbit around Earth.

Blue Origin has not started selling tickets or set prices to ride aboard its six passenger, gumdrop shaped capsule, known as New Shepard.

The reusable rocket and capsule is designed to carry passengers to an altitude of more than 100 miles (62 km) above the planet so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of Earth set against the blackness of space. Unmanned test flights have been underway since 2015.

At the symposium, Bezos showed off a mockup of the passenger capsule, which sports six reclined seats, each with its own large window. Also on display was a scorched New Shepard booster rocket that was retired in October after five flights.

Blue Origin is developing a second launch system to carry satellites, and eventually people, into orbit, similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule.