Blue Origin will attempt a suborbital test of an uncrewed New Shepard rocket on Wednesday. You can watch the flight and vertical landing, along with a planned astronaut dress rehearsal, live right here.
Update: 10:47 a.m. EDT: The hold is now cleared, according to Blue Origin. Launch is now scheduled for 11:56 a.m. EDT (10:56 a.m. CDT). Webcast (below) should begin an hour before launch.
Update: 10:25 a.m. EDT: A tweet put out by Blue Origin at 10:00 a.m. EDT states, “We’re currently in a hold and will update with a new target launch time soon.” The scheduled launch time, it would appear, is no longer in play, and we are awaiting a new T-minus.
Original article appears below.
Launch is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. EDT (10:15 a.m. CDT, which is local time), with Blue Origin’s live webcast starting at 10:15 a.m. EDT (9:15 a.m. CDT). You can watch the launch at the Blue Origin website, or hang out with us here and catch the action at the video provided below.
New Shepard Mission NS-15 will depart from Launch Site One in West Texas and climb to a height exceeding 62 miles (100 km), an altitude that technically qualifies as suborbital space (i.e. above the Kármán Line). The reusable booster will then attempt a vertical landing, while the capsule will deploy a parachute for the slow descent. The company is describing the launch—the fifteenth test of New Shepard—as a “verification step prior to flying astronauts.”
Blue Origin, owned and led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has been performing tests of the reusable launch system since 2015, but NS-15 could very well be the last. A successful test today could set the stage for crewed flights in 2022, and possibly earlier. The price for a seat remains unknown, but estimates range from $50,000 to $250,000. That’s a lot of dough for 11 minutes in “space,” but I will admit, experiencing a rocket launch sounds like the coolest thing in the world, and the view of Earth should be exquisite (the capsule is equipped with very large windows).
The NS-15 test will mimic a genuine crewed launch to the greatest extent possible, except that human passengers won’t be making the journey. Blue Origin personnel will escort “astronauts” to the launch tower, help them get into their seats, and strap ‘em in for the ride. Following a communications check, the operations team will then close the hatch, albeit for a very brief moment. The fake astronauts will then unbuckle themselves and exit the capsule before liftoff.
That said, and as is typical of these test launches, a stand-in anthropomorphic test device known as “Mannequin Skywalker” will make the journey into suborbital space.
Once the capsule is back on terra firma, the dress rehearsal will start anew, but this time to mimic the post-flight routine. The pseudo crew will climb back into the capsule to rehearse the opening of the hatch and the exiting of the vehicle. In case you’re wondering, Blue Origin’s live webcast will include all of these steps, but be respectful and try to stay awake during these parts of the broadcast.
The current New Shepard capsule—the newly upgraded NS4—was used during the previous test held on January 14 of this year, and it’s slated to be the one that’ll eventually carry paying customers to suborbital space. Blue Origin was hoping to fly people back in 2019, but the testing phase has taken much longer than anticipated. Should NS-15 go well, the company could start selling tickets for flights involving upwards of six passengers.