Blue Origin’s fifth human spaceflight won’t take place on Friday (May 20) after all.
Jeff Bezos’ company had been targeting Friday for the launch of NS-21, the next mission of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. But that’s no longer the plan.
“During our final vehicle checkouts, we observed one of New Shepard’s backup systems was not meeting our expectations for performance. In an abundance of caution, we will be delaying the #NS21 launch originally scheduled for Friday. Stay tuned for further updates,” Blue Origin said via Twitter today (May 18).
Blue Origin’s NS-21 mission: When to watch and what to know
NS-21 will send six people on a brief trip to suborbital space from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. One of the passengers, Katya Echazarreta, will become the first Mexican-born person to reach the final frontier. Another, Evan Dick, will become the first-ever repeat New Shepard crewmember. (Dick also flew on the NS-19 mission, which launched on Dec. 11, 2021.)
New Shepard consists of a rocket and a capsule, both of which are reusable. The rocket makes vertical powered landings not long after liftoff, and the capsule comes back to Earth shortly thereafter for soft, parachute-aided touchdowns.
Each New Shepard mission lasts roughly 11 minutes from liftoff to capsule touchdown. Passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness and get to see Earth against the blackness of space. We don’t know how much this experience costs; Blue Origin has not revealed its ticket prices.
As its name suggests, NS-21 will be the 21st flight overall for New Shepard and Blue Origin. The company has conducted four crewed missions to date, which lifted off in July 2021, October 2021, December 2021 and March 31 of this year.
Blue Origin isn’t the only company selling seats aboard suborbital flights; Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic does so as well. Virgin Galactic has four crewed spaceflights under its belt, but all of those have been test missions; the company plans to begin commercial crewed flights in early 2023.
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.