Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launched its sixth New Shepard passenger flight Thursday, taking half a dozen space tourists on a supersonic ride to the edge of space and back, with minutes of zero gravity and a view of the world from 66 miles above west Texas.
As the spacecraft reached the high point of its orbit, a microphone in the crew cabin picked up screams of joy and wonder as the passengers unfurled, floated, and marveled at the sight of Earth far below and the deep blackness of space above.
“We do it!” shouted one. “Oh my God!” groaned another. “Look at the blackness,” someone exclaimed. A crew member gave a tip: “take it, take it!”
The flight began when New Shepard’s single-stage rocket roared and the rocket lifted off from Blue Origin’s flight center in Van Horn, Texas, at 9:57 a.m. evaporation.
On board: a British-American mountaineer, an Egyptian space enthusiast, a Portuguese investor and adventurer, a telecommunications executive turned restaurateur, an engineer and a co-founder of the YouTube channel “Dude Perfect.”
The hydrogen-burning BE-3 first stage engine powered the New Shepard crew capsule to a speed of 2,239 mph and a final altitude of 351,232 feet, well above the US and international standards used to define the “boundaries” between the distinct atmosphere and space .
The capsule then bounced off and fell back to Earth. Moments after the spacecraft’s three main parachutes deployed and inflated, a crew member loudly joked, “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 living in Berlin while studying for a Ph.D. in the aerospace sciences, the duration of the flight was not as important as what it symbolized.
“When we dare to dream big, we achieve things thought impossible, break boundaries, make history and set new challenges for the future,” she told Space for Humanity, the organization sponsoring her flight.
“I am incredibly excited that Space For Humanity has offered 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 to bring that back. This is just the beginning .”
Also on board: Coby Cotton, one of the five co-founders of “Dude perfect“, one of the most popular sports channels on the Internet; Mario Ferreira, a Portuguese investor, mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, Clint Kelly III, an engineer specializing in autonomous driving systems, and Steve Young, a former CEO of a major telecommunications company and now a restaurant developer in Melbourne, Florida.
“There was a lot of stupid money coming out of selling the company,” Young told Florida Today. “And with stupid money, you can do stupid things… I’ve always been a bit of a braggart. And what’s better than being able to say you’ve been to space when your friends can’t?”
Blue Origin doesn’t discuss how much it charges for a New Shepard flight. But Quartz reported MoonDAO, a “decentralized autonomous organization” based on the ethereum blockchain, paid $2,575,000 for two New Shepard positions, including Cotton’s. Second place has not yet been awarded.
“Thanks to blockchain transparency, we know it cost MoonDAO $2,575,000,” Quartz reported. “Some of that is transaction fees, but the number suggests that a seat on New Shepard costs $1.25 million.”
The NS-22 mission marked the 12th piloted commercial, non-government suborbital flight and the sixth for Blue Origin, which is the front-runner 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 over 50 miles, the distance limit recognized by NASA and the FAA.on the company’s fourth flight in July 2021, the most recent, with 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 release.
Virgin Galactic has yet to announce a date for its next flight, but Blue Origin has followed Bezos’ lead by launching a suite of NASA experiments on an unmanned mission next month. Then on October 13, 2021,and three crew members were launched on the company’s 18th flight overall and the 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 transport plane and glides down a runway after a brief visit to the lower reaches of space, Blue Origin’s New Shepard is a much more traditional rocket and capsule.
In just over two minutes, the single-stage booster propels the capsule and its crew straight up to an altitude of about 32 miles and a speed of about 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.
While the reusable booster returns to land on a nearby pad, the crew capsule continues upward on an unpowered ballistic trajectory, reaching a maximum altitude of just over 65 miles three and a half minutes after liftoff.
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), an international organization based in Switzerland that certifies aerospace records, considers an altitude of 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, to be the dividing line between the visible atmosphere and space.
NASA and the FAA say that 50 miles is the point where the wings and airfoils no longer have any effect on the vehicle’s motion and thus define the starting point of “space”. Virgin Galactic uses this directive, while Blue Origin meets both standards.
After being released by the New Shepard rocket, passengers experience about three minutes of weightlessness, enough time to detach and float around the cabin while enjoying spectacular views of Earth through six windows that are more than three feet tall and nearly two and a half feet high. wide.
Plunging back into the lower atmosphere, the capsule rapidly decelerates, briefly subjecting the occupants to more than five times the normal force of gravity, before three large parachutes deploy, bringing the craft down to a soft landing a few miles from the launch pad.
All of this seemed to go like clockwork on Thursday.