Blue Origin set to launch six more people to suborbital space

Follow this link here to view the full content and support the original authors!

Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard rocket is set to propel six more people to an altitude of more than 60 miles over West Texas Saturday, including the first Mexican-born woman to fly to space.

The commercial launch will be the fifth Blue Origin flight to carry people to suborbital space, following the company’s first human mission last July that carried billionaire founder Jeff Bezos and three co-passengers.

The launch window Saturday opens at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), or 8 a.m. local time at the Blue Origin spaceport north of Van Horn, Texas. The mission, designated NS-21, was previously scheduled to launch May 20, but Blue Origin delayed the flight to address a problem with a backup system on the New Shepard rocket.

The six passengers on the NS-21 mission include Katya Echazarreta, a 26-year-old electrical engineer who will become the first first Mexican-born woman and the youngest American woman to fly to space. Born in Guadalajara, Echazarreta earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA in 2019, and worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory supporting several projects, including the Perseverance rover on Mars and the Europa Clipper mission now in development.

Echazarreta’s flight was sponsored by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity. She is the co-host of the YouTube series “Netflix IRL” and “Electric Kat” on the CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”

Evan Dick, an engineer and investor, will become the first repeat customer for Blue Origin. He flew to space on the NS-19 mission in December.

The NS-21 mission will also carry the second Brazilian to fly to space. Victor Correa Hespanha, 28, won a lottery to secure his seat on the New Shepard rocket. Hespanha is a civil production engineer, whose ride is sponsored by the Crypto Space Agency, an organization which says its “core mission is to converge the space industry’s technology with the innovation and financial power of the crypto markets to accelerate mankind’s off-world future.”

The other passengers on the NS-21 mission include Jaison Robinson, founder of the commercial real estate company JJM Investments and co-founder of Dream Variations Ventures, which invests in tech and sports startups. Robinson has a law degree and was a finalist on the TV show “Survivor” in 2009.

Victor Vescovo and Hamish Harding round out the passenger manifest for the NS-21 mission.

Vescovo is an equity investor and retired naval intelligence officer who has climbed the tallest mountains on all seven continents, and dived to Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the world’s oceans.

Harding is chairman of Action Aviation, a business jet brokerage company he founded in 2004, and also a business jet pilot, according to Blue Origin. He holds several aviation world records.

The passengers on Blue Origin’s NS-21 mission, from left to right: Victor Correa Hespanha, Katya Echazarreta, Jaison Robinson, Hamish Harding, Evan Dick, and Victor Vescovo. Credit: Blue Origin

In preparation for Saturday morning’s mission, Blue Origin rolled the New Shepard to the launch pad overnight and raised it vertical for final checkouts. The single-stage rocket stands about 60 feet, or 18 meters, tall and is powered by one BE-3 engine burning a mix of super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants.

The launch team planned to load the cryogenic propellants into the New Shepard booster early Saturday, while the six passengers finish preparations at a nearby facility the company calls “Astronaut Village.”

The passengers, who won’t wear spacesuits for their 10-minute ride to space, will ride to the launch pad and board the crew capsule on top of the New Shepard booster about 35 minutes before liftoff. The ground support team will close the hatch at about T-minus 24 minutes, then move to a fallback position for launch.

The rocket’s BE-3 engine will throttle up to full power, then clamps will release to allow the New Shepard booster to begin a vertical climb away from its launch pad. The BE-3 will produce about 110,000 pounds of thrust at full power, firing for about 2 minutes, 20 seconds to propel the New Shepard and its six passengers toward space.

After engine cutoff, the crew capsule will separate from the booster to begin independent arcing trajectories, passing above the von Kármán line — the internationally recognized boundary of space — at an altitude of about 62 miles (100 kilometers) for a couple of minutes. That will give the passengers in the capsule to unstrap from their seats and float around the pressurized cabin, enjoying expansive views through the largest windows ever flown in space.

The passengers will return to their seats before the spacecraft falls back into the thicker layers of the atmosphere, bracing for parachute deployment and touchdown on the desert floor a few miles from the launch site. The entire flight from liftoff to landing will last about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, the reusable booster will make its own precision descent back to Earth, aiming for a propulsive vertical touchdown on a landing pad a few minutes before the capsule makes its return.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.