The United States has the greatest number of high net worth (HNW) and ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals of any nation on Earth. The 2016 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report documented the number of millionaires in the United States was 13,554,000. The number of millionaires in America will grow to 18,067,000 by 2021.

The same report stated the number of ultra-high net worth individuals with a net worth above $50 million was 73,400.  By 2021, the number of UHNW in the United States will swell to more than 100,000. That growth trend will continue throughout the 2020s.

Forbes Magazine documents America’s Wealthy

According to Forbes magazine annual billionaire report, America has the greatest number of billionaires, now at 565—25 more than in 2016. Forbes magazine also reported:

The U.S. has more young billionaires than any other country with 24 calling the country home (including four immigrants). Seventy percent of these youngsters live in the state of California. Twelve of America’s young billionaires live in San Francisco and cofounded tech companies Airbnb, Uber, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. They make up just over half of the 23 tech billionaires under the age of 40.

Thus, Virgin Galactic in New Mexico and Blue Origin in Texas are perfectly positioned to capture the attention and tickets of America’s wealthy to experience suborbital spaceflight. Increasingly, the net worth of Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, is growing for both billionaires.

On April 8, Forbes magazine reported:

Following the stock rally last week, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, passed Warren Buffett to become the world’s second-richest person, behind only Bill Gates. And on Wednesday, Bezos revealed that he has been selling about $1 billion in stock a year to fund space travel, with the commitment of flying paying customers as soon as 2018.

The Dawn of American Suborbital Spaceflight

Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have been laboring on the development of their different suborbital launch vehicles and spacecraft for a decade. Both flight systems are completely unique in their design and flight profile.

The Virgin Galactic system has a multi-engine carrier jet aircraft that will take aloft the spacecraft named Unity. The air and spacecraft will climb above 40,000. At the appropriate time, Unity will be release and seconds later its engine will ignite. The sleek spacecraft will quickly reach Mach 1, pass Mach 2, and continue its steep flight path toward its eventual apogee of 100 kilometers.

Although weightlessness will only be several minutes in duration, the spaceflight participants will be able to enjoy the unique sensation and marvel and the Earth below. Once strapped back into their couches, reentry will be slowed by Unity’s feathering system and the passengers will be able to enjoy the view out their windows. Once below 50,000 feet, the spacecraft will resume its original aerodynamic configuration and descent like a glider back to the Spaceport USA runway.

The Blue Origin booster and capsule take the conventional but proven approach. When America’s Mercury program began in the early 1960s, it employed a single stage Redstone liquid propellant rocket and a Mercury capsule for one astronaut.  It was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a high altitude suborbital flight path.  America’s first two suborbital Mercury astronauts were Alan B. Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom. Their suborbital flight lasted about 15 minutes, and the capsule landed by parachute in the Atlantic Ocean, where they were picked up by the recovery team.

The Blue Origin booster and capsule is far more advanced–and comfortable! The New Shepard booster is launched from a west Texas facility. The spacious capsule carries six spaceflight participants to an altitude of 100 kilometers. They experience weightlessness after unstrapping themselves from their ergonomic seats. The large panorama windows allow unrestricted viewing of the Earth below, and the stars may be visible in the blackness beyond. The view is breathtaking.  At this altitude, all of spaceflight participants have become astronauts. Soon, they must strap themselves back in for reentry. The capsule deploys three large parachutes and it lands not far from the launch site.

Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin a striving to begin their flights with spaceflight participants in 2018.

Anthony Young ©Personal Spaceflight Advisors LLC
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