Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is set to launch its New Shepard rocket for the sixth time this year on Saturday, a mission that marks the first time the company will launch six passengers at once.
Called NS-19, this New Shepard mission will carry a crew of two guests and four customers: astronaut Alan Shepard’s daughter Laura Shepard Churchley, television host and NFL star Michael Strahan, space industry executive Dylan Taylor, investor Evan Dick, venture capitalist Lane Bess and his son Cameron Bess.
The company is currently targeting NS-19 liftoff at 9:45 a.m. EST.
The NS-19 mission will bring Blue Origin to 14 people launched to space in 2021. The year has seen a flurry of private human spaceflight activity, with three U.S. companies bringing passengers past the edge of space or all the way to orbit.
The rocket will launch from Blue Origin’s private facility in West Texas, aiming to reach above 100,000 kilometers (or more than 340,000 feet altitude) before returning to Earth safely a few minutes later. From start to finish, the launch is expected to last about 11 minutes. The crew is set to experience about three minutes of weightlessness.
New Shepard’s capsule will accelerate to more than three times the speed of sound to pass beyond the 80-kilometer boundary (about 50 miles) the U.S. uses to mark the edge of space. The capsule is flown autonomously, with no human pilot, and returns under a set of parachutes to land in the Texas desert.
The New Shepard rocket booster is reusable, and will attempt to return and land on a concrete pad near the launch site.
The company also flies New Shepard on cargo missions, such as the one in August, which carry research payloads in the capsule.
Blue Origin founder Bezos flew on the company’s first crewed spaceflight in July on a mission that marked his company’s entrance into the sector of suborbital tourism, where it competes with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
Also in the private space tourism market is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. But the company’s Crew Dragon capsule flies into orbit – many times the altitude of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft – and spends days in space, rather than minutes.
While Bezos said that Blue Origin has sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets to future passengers, the company has not disclosed the price of a seat on New Shepard.