Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin plans to fly its reusable rocket New Shepard from a launch site in Texas for the ninth time today. It will carry scientific payloads as it demonstrates a key safety feature on the path to carrying tourists to the edge of space.
The launch is expected at 10:00 am CT, or 11 ET. You can follow along on the company’s livestream, set to begin about twenty minutes before lift-off.
Beyond the experiments in the micro-gravity environment, this test flight is expected to demonstrate a “high altitude escape motor test.” The company has not released further details, but we can expect such a test will show the capsule can successfully separate from the rocket in case of emergency, akin to this demo from 2016.
Blue has been developing this rocket since 2003. The first flew in 2015, landing unsuccessfully. A second New Shepard vehicle successfully flew six times. The third, which flew for the first time in April 2018, will be re-used today. The company used the small vehicle to learn key technologies before moving on to a bigger rocket, and it hopes to develop a business taking joy riders just past the edge of space for a few minutes.
Blue recently denied a Reuters report that it was mulling ticket prices between $200,000 and $300,000, saying that serious discussions about the pricing have yet to begin. The company is expecting to fly its first human test pilots this year, with commercial operations beginning sometime after that—after everyone figures out the rules.
New Shepard remains the most visible of Blue Origin’s secretive work, which also includes building the huge New Glenn rocket; the BE-4 engine that the company plans to sell to United Launch Alliance, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin rocket venture; and even working with NASA to develop ways to use resources on the Mars.