Bezos’ Space Tourism Venture Blue Origin Has Successful Re-Entry

Bezos’ Space Tourism Venture Blue Origin Has Successful Re-Entry

Blue Origin has sent a crew of private astronauts to suborbital space, finally resuming its space tourism program on New Shepard after nearly two years of it being grounded.

The New Shepard rocket launched this morning around 1am AEST from Launch Site One in West Texas. The NS-25 mission carried a six-person crew, including 90-year-old Ed Dwight, who was selected in 1961 as the first Black astronaut candidate but never got to fly to space. The launch will be broadcast live through Blue Origin’s website.

In a Tweet, Blue Origin applauded its successful mission, “We just completed our seventh human spaceflight and the 25th flight for the New Shepard program. Our #NS25 astronaut crew included: Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Ed Dwight, Ken Hess, Carol Schaller, and Gopi Thotakura. Thank you, astronauts!”

Jeff Bezos’ space company had paused its suborbital tourism program following a liftoff malfunction of the New Shepard rocket. In September 2022, an uncrewed flight of New Shepard ended in flames around a minute after liftoff.

The rocket’s booster exploded mid-flight and its capsule abandoned ship while traveling at roughly 700 miles per hour (1,130 kilometers per hour) and at29,000 feet (8,840 meters) above the ground. At the time, New Shepard was carrying 36 payloads, more than half of which belonged to NASA.

In light of New Shepard’s explosive liftoff, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the rocket and launched an investigation into the botched flight. A year later, the FAA handed Blue Origin a list of 21 corrective actions to implement before the rocket could be deemed fit for flight.

Blue Origin identified a “thermo-structural failure of the engine nozzle” as the reason behind the rocket’s failed launch. The nozzle on the booster’s engine overheated as a result of increased temperatures that caused “thermal damage and hot streaks,” according to the company.

The liftoff malfunction was a first for Blue Origin’s launch vehicle. The rocket rebounded with the launch of an uncrewed flight in December 2023. For its 13th cargo mission, NS-24 carried 33 research payloads (no humans), more than half of which were “developed and flown with support from NASA,” the company wrote. The payload mission paved the way for the rocket to resume its crewed flights once again.

NS-25 is the seventh human flight, shuttling its passengers to suborbital heights. New Shepard’s last space tourism mission took place in August 2022, and carried a crew of six private astronauts, which included the first person from Egypt to fly to space.

The very first seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket sold for $US28 million through a global auction in 2021. The price for a ticket on the company’s space tourism rides has not been made public, although reports have suggested that a seat on New Shepard costs around $US1.25 million.

Watch lift off below.

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