Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin kicked off its sixth New Shepard passenger flight on Thursday, taking half a dozen space tourists on a supersonic ride to the edge of space and back, with a few minutes of weightlessness and out-of-this-world views at 66 miles above West Texas.
As the spacecraft reached the apex of its trajectory, a microphone in the crew cabin picked up cries of elation and wonder as passengers broke away, began to float and marvel at the spectacle of the Earth far below and the deep blackness of space above.
” We are doing it ! one shouted. “Oh my God!” gasped another. “Look at the darkness,” someone exclaimed. A member of the crew gave a little advice: “take it, take it!”
The flight began when the New Shepard’s single-stage rocket sprung to life and the rocket lifted off from Blue Origin’s flight facility in Van Horn, Texas at 9:57 a.m. EDT, shooting straight into blue skies. clear atop a brilliant jet of flames. exhaust.
On board: an Anglo-American mountaineer, an Egyptian space enthusiast, a Portuguese investor and adventurer, a telecom executive turned restaurateur, an engineer and co-founder of the YouTube channel “Dude Perfect”.
The hydrogen-powered BE-3 first-stage engine propelled the New Shepard crew capsule to a speed of 2,239 mph and an eventual altitude of 351,232 feet, well above U.S. and international standards used to define the “boundary” between perceptible atmosphere and space.
The capsule then flipped and fell back to Earth. Moments after the spacecraft’s three main parachutes were deployed and inflated, a crew member joked aloud, “We’re not going to die!” Also: “Our poor families!”
Mission duration, from launch to landing: 10 minutes and 20 seconds.
For Sara Sabry, a 29-year-old Egyptian mechanical and biomedical engineer who lives in Berlin during her doctoral studies. in aerospace science, the duration of the flight was not as important as what it symbolized.
“When we dare to dream big, we achieve things deemed impossible, we break down boundaries, write history and set new challenges for the future,” she told Space for Humanity, the organization that sponsors his flight.
“I am incredibly excited that Space For Humanity has given me this opportunity and I am honored to represent Egypt in space for the first time. My ancestors always dreamed big and achieved the impossible, and I hope bring it back. That’s just the beginning.”
Also on board: Coby Cotton, one of five co-founders of “Dude Perfect,” one of the most subscribed sports channels on the internet; Mario Ferreira, a Portuguese investor; mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien; Clint Kelly III, engineer specializing in autonomous driving systems; and Steve Young, former CEO of a large telecommunications company and now restaurant developer in Melbourne, Florida.
“With the sale of the business, there was a lot of stupid money,” Young told the Florida Today newspaper. “And with stupid money you can do stupid things. … I’ve always been a bit of a braggart. And what better way than to be able to say you’ve been to space when your buddies can’t. not?”
Blue Origin does not specify how much it charges for a flight on the New Shepard. But Quartz reported that MoonDAO, a “decentralized autonomous organization” built on the Ethereum blockchain, paid $2,575,000 for two New Shepard seats, including Cotton’s. The second seat has not yet been assigned.
“Thanks to blockchain transparency, we know it cost MoonDAO $2,575,000,” Quartz reported. “Part of that is transaction fees, but the figure suggests a seat on New Shepard costs $1.25 million.”
The NS-22 mission marked the 12th piloted non-government commercial sub-orbital spaceflight and the sixth for Blue Origin, which is the early frontrunner in a high-stakes competition between Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, the billionaire owner of Virgin Galactic. .
Branson won the commercial suborbital space race in 2018 when his company launched its first piloted test flight above 50 miles, the limit of space recognized by NASA and the FAA.on the company’s fourth flight in July 2021, its most recent, joining two pilots and three other Virgin Galactic employees.
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk and Danish teenager Oliver Daeman took offon July 20, 2021, nine days after Branson’s launch.
Virgin Galactic has yet to announce a date for its next flight, but Blue Origin followed the Bezos flight by launching a suite of NASA experiments on an unpiloted mission next month. Then, on October 13, 2021,and three crewmates were launched on the company’s 18th flight and second carrying passengers.
Three more crewed New Shepard flights followed on December 11, 2021, March 31 this year and most recently on June 4.
Unlike Virgin’s VSS Unity spaceplane, which launches from a carrier plane and glides to an airstrip after a brief visit to the lower edge of space, Blue Origin’s New Shepard is a rocket ship. and a much more traditional capsule.
In just over two minutes, the single-stage booster propels the capsule and its crew directly to an altitude of around 32 miles and a speed of around 2,200 mph before the main engine shuts down.
A few seconds later, at an altitude of about 45 miles, the crew capsule is released to fly on its own.
As the reusable booster returns to land on a nearby platform, the crew capsule continues upward on an unpowered ballistic trajectory, reaching a peak altitude of just over 65 miles three and a half minutes after launch. lift-off.
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), a Switzerland-based international body that certifies aerospace records, considers an altitude of 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, to be the dividing line between the perceptible atmosphere and space.
NASA and the FAA say 50 miles is the point where wings and aerosurfaces no longer have any effect on a vehicle’s motion and thus defines the starting point of “space”. Virgin Galactic uses this directive while Blue Origin meets both standards.
After the New Shepard rocket exits, passengers experience approximately three minutes of weightlessness, enough time to detach and float around the cabin while enjoying spectacular views of Earth through six windows over a meter in height. tall and almost two and a half feet. wide.
Plunging back into the lower atmosphere, the capsule decelerates rapidly, briefly subjecting passengers to more than five times the normal force of gravity, before three large parachutes deploy, lowering the craft to a light touchdown a few miles away. from the launch pad.
It all seemed to go like clockwork on Thursday.