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Jeff Bezos will sell Amazon stock every year to fund Blue Origin

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With his $78 billion fortune

A Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine. As many as seven of these engines is expected to propel the company’s New Glenn vehicle into Earth’s orbit.
Photo by Jeff Bezos / Blue Origin

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said today that he plans to sell $1 billion worth of stock in the e-commerce giant every year to help fund his spaceflight company Blue Origin, according to SpaceNews. As the world’s second richest person with a net worth of more than $78 billion, behind only Bill Gates, Bezos certainly has the financial resources to do that for many more decades. That bolsters the chances that Blue Origin will stay competitive with Elon Musk’s SpaceX as the two companies continue to pioneer privatized space transportation, both for the commercial and tourism industries.

Bezos was speaking at the 33rd annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, where he outlined his plans for the future of Blue Origin and space tourism in general. Blue Origin plans to make its reusable New Shepard vehicle fully operational and ready for consumer spaceflight by 2018. That’s a bold timeline, but the company has already launched and landed New Shepard five times.

The plan is to allow well-off passengers to pay for a ticket to be taken to the edge of space, where they can experience weightlessness while massive windows allow for ample viewing angles of Earth. SpaceX, on the other hand, is developing its Dragon space capsule to send astronauts to the International Space Station atop its Falcon 9 two-stage rocket. Though Musk says the company plans on sending people around the Moon as soon as next year using the more powerful Falcon Heavy rocket.

Yet Blue Origin has even grander ambitions. The company is currently working to develop an even larger launch vehicle known as New Glenn, which would stand taller than New Shepard and contain seven larger Blue Origin-made rocket engines called BE-4s. This vehicle would be capable of entering Earth’s orbit, and it would come close in height and power to NASA’s iconic Saturn V rocket that helped first propel astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and onward to the Moon.

The United Launch Alliance has already expressed interest in making use of the BE-4 engine in a new low-orbit launcher known as Vulcan, paving the way for Blue Origin to move beyond space tourism and start providing more material support to other space transport companies. In his statements at Colorado Springs, Bezos said he estimates it will cost a total of $2.5 billion to develop New Glenn, which he expects will make its first flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by the end of the decade.