Blue Origin’s fifth human spaceflight will take place next week, if all goes according to plan.
Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company announced today (May 13) that it’s targeting May 20 for the launch of NS-21, the next crewed flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. The launch window will open that day at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT). You can watch live here at Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of Blue Origin; coverage will begin an hour before liftoff.
NS-21 will carry six people on a brief trip to the final frontier — Evan Dick, Katya Echazarreta, Hamish Harding, Victor Correa Hespanha, Jaison Robinson and Victor Vescovo. Blue Origin announced their names on Monday (May 9), in a news release that did not identify a target date.
Next week’s mission will feature several spaceflight firsts. Echazarreta will become the first Mexican-born person to reach space, for example, and Dick will be the first person to fly to space with Blue Origin twice. (He was a crewmember on NS-19, which flew on Dec. 11, 2021.)
New Shepard is a reusable rocket-capsule combo designed to carry people and science experiments to suborbital space. Passengers on the automated vehicle get to see Earth against the blackness of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness on flights that last a total of 10 to 12 minutes from liftoff to capsule touchdown.
Blue Origin has flown four crewed New Shepard missions to date, all of them since July 2021. NS-21 is the first in which a celebrity was never listed on the passenger manifest. (“Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson was initially supposed to fly on NS-20, but he backed out after the mission’s launch date was delayed. NS-20 was originally targeted for March 23 but ended up flying on March 31.)
Blue Origin also revealed the NS-21 mission patch today. The patch was designed by Dick and features nods to each of the six passengers; you can learn more about it from Blue Origin here.
The company has one main rival in the suborbital space tourism business at the moment — Virgin Galactic, which is part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane has four crewed spaceflights under its belt, but it’s not fully operational yet. Virgin Galactic aims to begin commercial crewed flights early next year, after finishing maintenance and enhancement work on Unity’s carrier plane, VMS Eve.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.