By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – The fourth commercial flight of Jeff Bezos’ space tourism company Blue Origin, which offers short suborbital jaunts for thrill seekers and celebrity guests, has been delayed by two days due to poor weather, the company said.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft was scheduled to lift off Tuesday from the company’s launch site in rural West Texas at 8:30 a.m. CDT (1330 GMT) with six would-be citizen astronauts strapped into the crew cabin at the fully self-contained launcher top, standing almost six stories high.
The company announced on Monday that it has postponed the launch of the NS-20 mission to March 31 due to forecasts of high winds during the launch and recovery of the spacecraft.
Blue Origin said the vehicle met all mission requirements for the flight and weather is the only factor blocking the launch.
Unlike Blue Origin’s first three commercial flights, with passenger lists including ‘Star Trek’ actor William Shatner, morning TV host Michael Strahan and even Bezos himself, no one among the latest group of customers isn’t even close to being famous.
The most recent surname confirmed as a non-paying promotional guest, “Saturday Night Live” comic Pete Davidson, dropped out earlier this month when the scheduled launch was delayed six days from its original date of March 23 to allow time for further pre-flight testing.
A few days later, the company announced that Davidson, 28, the boyfriend of reality TV star Kim Kardashian, had been replaced on the latest ‘crew’ manifesto by veteran Blue Origin designer Gary Lai, architect of the New Shepard reusable launch system.
Lai flies for free. He joins five previously announced paying clients – angel investor Marty Allen, real estate veteran Marc Hagle and his wife Sharon Hagle, entrepreneur and University of North Carolina professor Jim Kitchen and President George Nield – founder of Commercial Space Technologies.
Kitchen’s journey to the final frontier caps a lifelong dedication to the journey that has taken him to all 193 UN-recognized countries, according to Blue Origin’s biographical material.
The entire flight, from takeoff to touchdown, should last just over 10 minutes. The crew will experience a few minutes of weightlessness at the very peak of their suborbital flight, some 350,000 feet (106,680 meters) above sea level, before their capsule plummets back to Earth for a parachute landing on the desert floor.
Bezos, the billionaire founder of online retail giant Amazon, accompanied himself on Blue Origin’s maiden crewed flight to the far reaches of space last July.
He accompanied his brother, Mark Bezos, pioneering octogenarian aviator Wally Funk and an 18-year-old Dutch high school student.
Later passengers included Shatner, who became the oldest person to fly in space at 90, “Good Morning America” co-host and retired NFL star Strahan, and eldest daughter of pioneering astronaut Alan Shepard, for whom Blue Origin’s spacecraft is named.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes and Krishna Chandra Eluri)