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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

The Billionaire Space Race Is About to Heat Up Again--Here's What You Need to Know

• https://robbreport.com, By MICHAEL VERDON

Blue Origin announced that it will be launching a rocket this Sunday, ending a nearly two-year drought. The space tourism firm hasn't held a crewed suborbital mission since its NS-22 flight in August 2022. A month after that event, during an uncrewed flight, its New Shepard spacecraft disengaged itself from the rocket mid-flight. The capsule parachuted safely back to Earth.

A "thermo-structural failure" on the rocket's BE-3PM engine nozzle was blamed for the malfunction. After 15 months, Blue Origin returned in December 2023 with its uncrewed NS-24 mission.

The company is offering both research and space-tourism suborbital missions that fly to about 100 kilometers above the Earth to the Karman line, which many scientists call the edge of space. At that point, the crew experiences a few minutes of weightlessness before the capsule drops back to the company's launch facility in Van Horn, Texas. The flight and space experience lasts about 10 minutes.

This mission's crew is as eclectic as previous flights. It includes Ed Dwight, 90, who in 1961 became the U.S.'s first-ever black astronaut candidate; venture capitalist Mason Angel; Sylvain Chiron, the founder of French craft brewery Brasserie Mont Blanc; entrepreneur Kenneth L. Hess; retired accountant Carol Schaller; and pilot and aviator Gopi Thotakura.

Blue Origin's resumption of commercial flights—rumored to cost anywhere between $200,000 and the $28 million one civilian astronaut supposedly paid for the initial flight—means the space race between Jeff Bezos's company and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is finally getting serious.

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