(Image source: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin aims for crewed New Shepard launch in 2019

After the successful NS-10 launch, Blue Origin hopes for a crewed test flight by the end of the year.
Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin successfully completed the tenth launch of its suborbital launch vehicle New Shepard. The NS-10 launch – the fourth launch for this specific vehicle – was in support of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate Flight Opportunities program and carried eight agency-sponsored research and technology payloads into low Earth orbit (LEO). The New Shepard is designed to be a crewed, space tourism vehicle, and although the launch was unmanned, statements made during Blue Origin’s launch broadcast suggest that the company has its first crewed launch test flight targeted for the end of this year.

“So exciting to think that human spaceflight is just around the corner [for Blue Origin], said Blue Origin Director of Astronaut and Orbital Sales, Ariane Cornell, during the launch broadcast. “We're aiming for the end of this year, by the end of this year, but as we have said before, we are not in a rush. We want to take our time, we want to do this right.”

Previously, owner and founder Jeff Bezos, had suggested crewed launches as early as December 2017.

In December, the vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing New Shepard arrived at its West Texas launch facility. (Image source: Blue Origin)

According to a June, 2018 Blue Origin announcement, the company will begin ticket sales at some point in 2019, although pricing and expected launch dates have not been announced.


According to Blue Origin, New Shepard’s vertical-landing feature and reusability is lowering launch costs and creating routine access to space. Lowering the cost of microgravity research increases the opportunities for universities, government researchers and entrepreneurs to test payloads and technologies in space. 

Flying New Shepard more frequently is critically important to the future of Blue Origin, its growing fleet of launch vehicles, and the goal of lowering the cost of access to space. Blue Origin is using the continued success and proven stability of the New Shepard configuration to validates methods, operations, and technology needed for larger scale programs like its New Glenn launch vehicle.

The New Glenn will have a seven-meter payload fairing enabling two times the payload volume of any existing launch vehicle.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

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