This weekend, Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin plans to launch its fifth human mission. The next flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle, NS-21, has been rescheduled for lift off on June 4. NS-21 is set to launch from Blue Origin’s West Texas facility on Saturday during a window that opens at 9am EDT (6:30pm IST). The launch of NS-21 was initially scheduled for May 20, but Blue Origin postponed it after identifying a probable fault with one of the New Shepard’s backup systems. The nature of the problem has not been revealed by the company.
New Shepard is a reusable rocket-capsule system that takes people and payloads to suborbital space for short periods of time. Passengers get a few minutes of weightlessness and observe the arc of Earth against the blackness of space during each about 11-minute flight. The cost of a ticket is a closely kept secret.
Six individuals will fly on NS-21, states Blue Origin on its website. They include investor Evan Dick, electrical engineer and former NASA test lead Katya Echazarreta, business jet pilot and action aviation chairman Hamish Harding, civil production engineer Victor Correa Hespanha, adventurer and Dream Variation Ventures co-founder Jaison Robinson, and explorer and co-founder of private equity firm Insight Equity Victor Vescovo.
While Echazarreta will be the youngest American woman in space at the age of 26, Dick was also a part of the NS-19 mission, which was launched in December 2021.
NS-21 will be New Shepard’s 21st spaceflight, as the name implies. However, it will be the system’s fifth crewed mission, following flights in July, October and December 2021, as well as in March 2022.
Blue Origin flew its founder, Jeff Bezos, on its first crewed mission in July 2021. It has also transported Star Trek icon William Shatner and Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of the first American in orbit, on its inaugural flight.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin’s main competitor in the suborbital space tourism market, sells tickets aboard its VSS Unity space aircraft for $4,50,000 (roughly Rs. 3.49 crore) each. However, VSS Unity is not yet completely operational. Virgin Galactic plans to commence commercial passenger flights in early 2023.