The NS-19 capsule returns with the crew above the Texas desert.
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin on Saturday launched its New Shepard rocket for the sixth time this year, a mission that marked the first time the company launched six passengers at once.
Called NS-19, this New Shepard mission carried a crew of two guests and four customers: astronaut Alan Shepard’s daughter Laura Shepard Churchley, television host and NFL star Michael Strahan, space industry executive Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, venture capitalist Lane Bess and his son Cameron Bess.
The crew of NS-19 takes a look at their ride to space. From left: Laura Shepard Churchley, Michael Strahan, Evan Dick, Lane Bess, Cameron Bess, and Dylan Taylor.
The NS-19 mission brought Blue Origin to 14 people launched to space in 2021. The year has seen a flurry of private human spaceflight activity, with three U.S. companies bringing passengers past the edge of space or all the way to orbit.
The rocket launched from Blue Origin’s private facility in West Texas, and reached above 100,000 kilometers (or more than 340,000 feet altitude) before returning to Earth safely a few minutes later. From start to finish, the launch lasted about 11 minutes. The crew experienced about three minutes of weightlessness.
New Shepard’s capsule accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound to pass beyond the 80-kilometer boundary (about 50 miles) the U.S. uses to mark the edge of space. The capsule was flown autonomously, with no human pilot, and returned under a set of parachutes to land in the Texas desert.
The New Shepard rocket booster is reusable, and returned and landed on a concrete pad near the launch site for a fifth time.
The company also flies New Shepard on cargo missions, such as the one in August, which carry research payloads in the capsule.
This photo provided by Blue Origin, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket sits on a spaceport launch pad near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Blue Origin | Reuters