- Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin on Saturday launched its New Shepard rocket for the sixth time this year.
- The mission, called NS-19, marked the first time the company launched six passengers at once and carried a crew of two guests and four customers.
- The NS-19 mission brings Blue Origin to 14 people launched to space in 2021, a year that has seen a flurry of private human spaceflight activity.
Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin on Saturday launched its New Shepard rocket for the sixth time this year, a mission that marked the first time the company launched six passengers at once.
Called NS-19, this New Shepard mission carried 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 NS-19 mission brought 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 launched from Blue Origin's private facility in West Texas, and reached above 100 kilometers (or more than 340,000 feet altitude) before returning to Earth safely a few minutes later. From start to finish, the launch lasted about 11 minutes. The crew experienced about three minutes of weightlessness.
New Shepard's capsule accelerated 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 was flown autonomously, with no human pilot, and returned under a set of parachutes to land in the Texas desert.
The New Shepard rocket booster is reusable, and returned and landed on a concrete pad near the launch site for a fifth time.
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.