The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has just set new rules when it comes to the Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program including the criteria used to award those that are commanding, piloting, or even working on privately funded spacecraft with the official Commercial Space Astronaut Wings badge.
Jeff Bezos Blue Origin
The new official FAA ruling was issued on July 20, 2021, the exact same day that Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin rocket crew made history by actually blasting off the West Texas desert. They were able to reach space and return directly to Earth.
According to USA Today, NASA, the FAA, the Air Force, and a number of astrophysicists considered the boundary between space located at least 50 miles up. Jeff Bezos was able to meet this requirement by reaching 62 miles above sea level.
FAA Criteria on Commercial Space Astronaut Wings Program
In order to earn the wings, the FAA notes that passengers should have "demonstrated activities during flight which were essential to public safety or were able to contribute to human space flight safety. Due to the automation of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos technically does not meet this criteria.
The New Shepard is a 60-foot rocket and capsule which was originally designed primarily for the use of space tourism thanks to fully automated flight systems. This meant that nobody was actually piloting the craft nor contributing towards "human space flight safety." Despite the brief dip into space, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin flight still made history as the first for New Shepard.
New Shepard Passengers
After the New Shepard's liftoff, the booster was able to return to the facility for a vertical landing while the capsule had briefly been left to float in space. The capsule then touched down somewhere near the launch site with the help of assisting parachutes.
The other passengers who reportedly joined Bezos on the New Shepard - Bezos' brother Mark, 18-year-old Oliver Daemon, and even "Mercury 13" aviator Wally Funk - also weren't able to qualify as being official members of the spacecraft's crew. This is because the FAA defines that as employees or even contractors that are associated with a company that is involved in the official spacecraft's launch.
Blue Origin Employs Thousands
Blue Origin reportedly employs thousands of people across multiple states and campuses. Competitor Richard Branson's recent Virgin Galactic, who also did his very own space flight just a week before Bezos, has over 800 employees.
Founder of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson posed for photographs at the NYSE in order to promote the very first day of trading of Virgin Galactic Holding shares back on October 28, 2019 in New York City. Before SpaceX, Virgin Galactic Holdings became the very first space-tourism company to actually go public and even started trading with a market value of about $1 billion!
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Written by Urian B.