Bezos’ Blue Origin has completed its fifth crewed flight launch. It is scheduled to carry six astronauts on board the NS-19 mission. One of those astronauts is former Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Evan Dick, who was selected from over 7,000 applications from over a hundred countries. The company will select five other astronauts, which it calls “space warriors,” to fly aboard its mission. However, there are currently no details about the astronaut selection process, nor on the mission plans.
In a statement, Bezos said he is “very happy” with the result of the test flight. Although the launch has been postponed several times, the company is optimistic about the progress made thus far. The launch was originally scheduled for Oct. 12, but postponed due to windy conditions. According to the company’s lead flight director, the winds would cause some technical challenges and that he is not certain he can complete it.
The flight was a milestone for the company. It’s the first crewed flight since July 20. Both flights were from Launch Site One, but the New Shepard used a different capsule and booster. Both flights achieved more than 100 kilometers altitude. The New Shepard crew capsule landed under parachute three hours later. The booster performed a propulsive landing, too.
The company’s progress is remarkable. The company has now sent four astronauts into space, including two sponsored contest winners and Bezos himself. In July, the company is expected to send Richard Branson aboard the third flight, a commercial research mission, and an astronaut training flight for the Italian Air Force. Branson’s flight will occur around July 4, two weeks before Bezos’. The company has yet to confirm that the pilots of both flights will be in space.
While it is unclear which company will win the contract, a successful bidder may be named soon. Those winning the bids may also designate another individual to fly on the New Shepard. Ariane Cornell, the CEO of Blue Origin, has said that the winning bidder will be announced within the next two weeks. And Bezos has said that he plans to fly on the mission.
The New Shepard will launch on its next New Shepard suborbital mission on August 25, carrying research payloads but no people. Though the launch of its crewed flight has surpassed expectations, the company is facing backlash over the decision to spend a portion of his wealth on space flights. Meanwhile, Blue Origin has a new competition in the suborbital space market, Virgin Galactic. The company recently launched a commercial SpaceShipTwo vessel on April 14.