Why it matters: Blue Origin, the Bezos-owned aerospace company focused on reusable technology and affordable space travel, successfully launched their fifth crewed mission on Saturday morning. The launch carried the company's New Shepard spacecraft and six-passenger crew more than 60 miles above the earth's surface before successfully touching back down. The launch campaign, dubbed NS-21, marked the New Shepard launch platform's 21st overall launch.
The Saturday morning launch and recovery took place at Blue Origin's Launch Site One facility, located on Bezos' Corn Ranch near Van Horn, TX. The launch marked Blue Origin's 5th crewed flight and 21st overall successful launch of the New Shepard launch platform.
New Shepard launches typically last 11 minutes from initial liftoff through capsule touchdown, using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to provide the thrust needed to propel the vehicle away from the surface. Typical rocket fuels produce waste ranging from water vapor to aluminum oxides to massive amounts of CO2. By comparison, Blue Origin claims their launch system produces water vapor, minimal combustion products, and virtually no CO2.
The spacecraft's capsule released from the rocket approximately three minutes into the flight. Once separated, the capsule spent several minutes in microgravity and crossed the Kármán line as the New Shepard's booster began its transition back to earth. The capsule eventually parachuted back to safety as the booster used its circular ring, fins, and engines to touch back down. This safe return and reusability of components are one of the key measures of Blue Origin's overall success.
The flight's six-member crew included a combination of engineers and businessmen from varied backgrounds and locations. Among the crew was Katya Echazarreta, a 26-year-old American who was selected and sponsored by Space for Humanity. The trip officially made the Guadalajara native the youngest American woman to travel to space.
Other members of the crew included Evan Dick and Victor Correa Hespanha. Dick is a former investment management senior executive and managing partner at Dick Holdings, LLC. 28-year-old Hespanha, who became the first ever Brazilian space tourist, was funded by the Crypto Space Agency, an organization that hopes to augment space travel capabilities with the innovation and financial power of the cryptocurrency market.
While we can only guess the cost of the flight, Blue Origin's direct competitor, Virgin Galactic, previously charged upwards of $450,000 for similar tour rides aboard its low earth orbit vehicle. With ticket costs at those kinds of prices there's a good chance that space will be stuck behind a hefty paywall for the foreseeable future.