Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos, has announced that it plans to launch its New Shepard suborbital rocket next week. This will be the company’s first mission since a crash in September 2022. The launch is scheduled for December 18 and will carry 33 science and research payloads, as well as 38,000 postcards.
However, before the launch can take place, it needs to be cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA stated that it is still working on outstanding items related to the license modification application. Blue Origin expects to receive approval from the FAA.
The crash in September 2022 prompted the FAA to conduct an investigation, which has now been closed. The investigation found that a failure of an engine nozzle caused by higher-than-expected engine operating temperatures led to the rocket falling back to the ground after liftoff. However, the capsule carrying research experiments safely returned to Earth.
Blue Origin has flown six crewed flights since July 2021, with some passengers being paying customers and others flying as guests. In contrast, rival company Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson, has continued its flights and has completed five commercial flights this year.
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are competing in the space tourism sector, offering a few minutes of weightlessness in suborbital space. Blue Origin launches its small rocket vertically, while Virgin Galactic uses a carrier plane to gain altitude and then drops off a smaller rocket-powered spaceplane.
Ticket prices for Virgin Galactic range from $200,000 to $450,000, while Blue Origin does not publicly disclose its ticket prices.