Jeff Bezos is on the cusp of becoming the world’s second billionaire to launch into space aboard a privately-built spacecraft. Arriving at the finish line hot on the heels of Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin will blast off to the edge of space today from West Texas. Blue Origin’s launch has been officially dubbed First Human Flight and coincides with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
The launch will see Mr Bezos and three crewmates fly Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket from Launch Site One near Van Horn, Texas.
Weather permitting, the spacecraft is pencilled in to launch at 2pm BST (9am EDT, 8am CDT, 6am PDT).
Blue Origin confirmed earlier today “our astronauts have completed training and are go for launch”.
Mr Bezos is joined on this inaugural launch by his brother Mark, 18-year-old student Oliver Daemen, and Mercury 13 pioneer Wally Funk.
Blue Origin prepare for first human flight on New Shepard
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How to watch the Blue Origin launch today:
Courtesy of Blue Origin, you can stream the launch and pre-flight activities in the embedded video player above.
The stream will kick off at 12.30pm BST (7.30am EDT, 6am CDT, 4am PDT) – about 90 minutes before liftoff.
On Sunday, Blue Origin confirmed weather forecasts for Tuesday are “currently favourable” so the company looks go for launch.
Although this will be the 16th launch of a New Shepard rocket, it will mark Blue Origin’s very first crewed flight.
The rocket will soar to the upper reaches of the atmosphere past the so-called Karman Line – the internationally accepted border of space.
There, the New Shepard’s crew will have the chance to experience weightlessness inside of the spacecraft’s capsule.
Flying above the Karman line, the four astronauts will gaze down upon the planet from an unprecedented perspective.
Mr Bezos and his crew will get to see the curvature of the Earth and “experience a flight of a lifetime”.
Ariane Cornell, Director of Astronaut and Orbital Sales at Blue Origin, called this sight a “spectacular view” at a pre-launch briefing on Sunday.
Speaking of the New Shepard spacecraft, she said: “It’s an autonomous vehicle. It’s been designed so that the customers, the astronauts themselves can experience the flight.
“And you leave the rest to the rocket and the rest to the team to operate.
“Again, so you can experience that flight of a lifetime over the Karman line.”
Blue Origin expects the flight to only last 11 minutes – compared to Virgin Galactic’s 90-minute flight.
But there is a major difference between how the two space tourism companies operate.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will launch vertically and the booster will return to Earth for a soft landing much like SpaceX’s signature Falcon 9 does.
Mr Bezos and his crewmates will separately return to Earth in their capsule and land in the Texan wilderness where they will be recovered.
Virgin Galactic, on the other hand, operates a rocket-powered spaceplane more akin to NASA’s Space Shuttle.
The SpaceShipTwo spacecraft is first carried to an altitude of about 10 miles by another aircraft before detaching and powering up its motors.
The spaceplane then soars to an altitude above 50 miles where the passengers can experience four minutes of weightlessness.
SpaceShipTwo then dives back into the atmosphere and glides back to the company’s base of operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
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