Update October 13th, 9:53AM ET: New Shepard successfully took off at 9:36AM ET, climbing to a height of about 66 miles up. Both the rocket and crew capsule returned safely to Earth following the flight.
Original story: This morning, Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin is set to conduct another test launch of its New Shepard rocket, a reusable vehicle designed to take paying tourists to the edge of space and back. Just like New Shepard test flights of the past, no people will be on board this trip, but the rocket will be carrying a dozen research payloads to space for NASA.
Today's test will mark the 13th launch of the New Shepard program and the seventh overall flight for this particular rocket. But it's been a long time since the New Shepard fleet has seen any action, with the last test flight (featuring the same rocket launching today) taking place back in December 2019. In April, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the company had hoped to conduct another New Shepard test launch, despite concerns voiced by employees at the time. That launch was ultimately delayed, and Blue Origin waited until late September to try again, though it had to push the launch back until this week due to a power supply issue.