New Shepard completes another commercial suborbital flight

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft today successfully completed its fourth manned commercial flight, carrying six passengers to a height of about 70 miles for total flight time of a little less than eight minutes.

I have embedded the live stream below the fold, cued to just before launch. Everything went almost routinely, which is a very good thing for a rocket company.

The most interesting aspect of this flight was that one of the passengers was George Nield, who had:

…previously served as associate administrator for the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation from 2008 to 2018, being responsible for launch licensing and regulation for all commercial launch activities during that time.

During Nield’s term, the government worked very hard to help get launches off the ground, which laid the groundwork for the success of both SpaceX’s orbital Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, as well as the suborbital spacecraft of Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. His effort also helped jumpstart the new smallsat rocket industry.

Since his retirement, the FAA’s attitude toward regulation has become more oppressive, especially since the beginning of the Biden administration in 2021.

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George Nield of FAA space office is retiring

George Nield, who has been the associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is going to retire at the end of March.

Nield has held the position for the past 15 years, and has been a big supporter of private commercial space. While Congress has passed laws during this time period that gave his office lots of regulatory power and thus the ability to lord it over these new companies, Nield instead worked with them so that their efforts would not be hampered by the government. The result has been the birth of a thriving competitive and innovative private launch industry.

I fear what will happen with the next person to hold this position. History tells us that bureaucracies always expand their power with every opportunity, with such expansions often instigated by the arrival of new bureaucrats eager to take advantage of the regulations to build themselves an empire.