Blue Origin plans to launch its next mission to suborbital space next week, but it won’t be a crewed affair.
Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company announced on Wednesday (Aug. 24) that it’s targeting Aug. 31 for NS-23, the next flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. New Shepard is best known for taking space tourists on brief trips to the final frontier, but NS-23 won’t haul anyone aloft — just 36 payloads provided by universities, other institutions and students.
NS-23 is scheduled to launch at 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) on Aug. 31 from Blue Origin‘s West Texas site, which is near the town of Van Horn. You can watch it here at Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of Blue Origin, or directly via the company.
In photos: Blue Origin’s 1st New Shepard passenger launch with Jeff Bezos
“This mission brings the total number of commercial payloads flown on the vehicle to more than 150,” Blue Origin wrote in a Wednesday update (opens in new tab) that has in-depth descriptions of some of the experiments.
“Two of the payloads will fly on the exterior of the New Shepard booster for ambient exposure to the space environment,” the update adds. “Eighteen of the payloads on this flight are funded by NASA, primarily by the Flight Opportunities program.”
As the name suggests, NS-23 will be the 23rd spaceflight for New Shepard overall. It will be the ninth flight for this particular New Shepard vehicle, which is dedicated to uncrewed missions. Blue Origin uses a different New Shepard for its space tourist trips, the most recent of which lifted off on Aug. 4.
Blue Origin has flown a total of six crewed suborbital missions, all of them since July 2021. NS-23 will be the company’s first uncrewed spaceflight since August of last year.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).