A “PR war” has started between the two billionaire-owned space companies, Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic by Richard Branson.
It started when Virgin Falactic announced that they were going to fly Richard Branson to space nine days before Jeff Bezos flies on Blue Origin. After hearing about this, Jeff Bezos tried publicly humiliating Virgin Galactic by discrediting their spaceplane. Bezos included insults regarding the vehicle’s peak altiude, suborbital, and size of its windows.
“Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith wished Branson well after Virgin’s announcement, but alleged he’s not really going to space — “they’re not flying above the Kármán line and it’s a very different experience.””The Verge’s article, “Space tourism rivalry gets extremely petty ahead of Branson’s spaceflight”
Blue Origin tweeted a visual chart that contrasts the two quarrelling space companies two days before Richard Branson’s flight. The caption, “From the beginning, New Shepard was designed to fly above the Kármán line so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name. For 96% of the world’s population, space begins 100 km up at the internationally recognized Kármán line,” is a snarky remark that implies that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo passengers are not on the same level as astronauts.
Virgin Galactic did not respond immediately, but Nicola Pecile, a Virgin Galactic test pilot decided to speak up. The now-edleted tweet states, “this pissing contest about the Karman line is so childish that is getting really embarrassing to watch. Flying above 100K ft is already so complicated that anyone doing so should deserve a special recognition,” and continues on a different tweet stating how Blue Origin has only flown mannequins while Virgin Galactic sent humans back in 2018.
While it seems as if Bezos and Blue Origin started the fire with that tweet, Richard Branson admitted that he decided to fly before Bezos for publicity to beat Bezos’ launch on purpose. When he was interviewed on CNBC about whether the decision was purposeful against Jeff Bezos, Branson replies, “Jeff who?”
This rivalry is mostly a publicity stunt and is actually working to gain traction on the current space events and promotes both space companies.