NEW YORK • Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said he is selling about US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) worth of the Internet retailer's 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 this year, but that probably will not happen until next year, Mr Bezos told reporters at the annual US Space Symposium on Wednesday.
Ultimately, 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 millions of people can live and work off earth, he said.
Mr Bezos is Amazon's chief executive and its largest shareholder, with 80.9 million shares, according to Thomson Reuters data. At Wednesday's closing share price of US$909.28, Mr Bezos would have to sell 1,099,771 shares to meet his pledge of selling US$1 billion worth of Amazon stock. Mr Bezos' total Amazon holdings, representing a 16.95 per cent stake in the company, are worth US$73.54 billion at Wednesday's closing price.
For now, Blue Origin is working towards far shorter hops - 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 100km above the planet. Unmanned test flights have been under way since 2015.
At the symposium, Mr Bezos showed off a mock-up 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.