R.ichard Branson wants to beat Jeff Bezos. Not in the billionaire ranking. The gentleman of the Virgin group can no longer do that. With a meager $ 5.7 billion in fortune, Branson is currently ranked 512 on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people. Bezos, founder of the digital company Amazon, is the leader of the table and more than $ 200 billion richer. But Branson wants to be the first to venture into space with its own space tourism company. If everything goes well, the “VSS Unity”, which will take off from a carrier aircraft, will carry him into the blackness of space this Sunday. Bezos will not board his “New Shepard” rocket until July 20th. Both are suborbital flights whose passengers will only spend a few minutes in space. But the premiere of a completely private touristic space flight would still be an entry in the history books. The question, however, is whether Bezos will recognize it if Branson first steps him.
The VSS Unity reached 89.2 kilometers on its last test flight in May, but the New Shepard 106.3 kilometers in April. This means that only Bezos’ rocket comes over the so-called Kármán line of 100 kilometers, which many see as the boundary between the earth’s atmosphere and space and which was first reached in June 1944 by Wernher von Braun’s V2. The Hungarian-American engineer Theodore von Kármán (1881 to 1963) later suggested the 100 kilometers because at about this altitude the air becomes so thin that an airplane would have to fly as fast as a satellite in order to generate lift Height would revolve. But is that a meaningful universal limit? Doesn’t it depend too much on details such as the density of the high atmosphere, which fluctuates with solar activity?