Blue Origin reschedules next New Shepard flight

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin announced yesterday that it has rescheduled the next New Shepard passenger flight for June 4.

The original launch date of May 20th had been scrubbed because of an unexplained issue with the spacecraft’s “back-up systems.” The company has not provided any further information on what had been wrong, or what had been done to fix it.

This flight will be New Shepard’s fifth passenger flight, and its 21st overall.

Watching the New Shepard suborbital flight with William Shatner

I have embedded the live stream of the Blue Origin suborbital flight today of its New Shepard spacecraft, carrying four passengers including William Shatner.

The launch is presently scheduled for 7 am (Pacific). The live stream will start about 5:30 am (Pacific).

As I have noted previously, the announcers for Blue Origin tend to blather quite a bit, hyping the situation to a point of nausea. Hopefully during the flight they will shut up and allow the voices of the passengers to take center stage.

I meanwhile will be on the road during the flight. I will try to post updates as well as my normal news stories, but both might have to wait until I return home in the early afternoon. Regardless, the live stream is below for you to enjoy.

Virgin Galactic reopens suborbital ticket sale, raises price, delays next flight

Capitalism in space: Virgin Galactic announced yesterday that it is resuming ticket sales for flights on its reusable SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, raising the price from the old price of $250,000 to a new price of $450,000.

Virgin Galactic is offering customers three options: purchase a single seat, buy several together or book an entire flight on the eight-passenger Unity (or other space planes that come into operation, such as the recently built VSS Imagine). The company also sells seats for microgravity research and professional astronaut training. Those are in a different tier, going for $600,000 apiece, Colglazier said during a call with investors on Thursday afternoon.

The announcement also revealed that they are delaying their next flight until September. That flight has been scheduled for the summer for months. The company is also delaying the start of regular commercial flights until late in ’22, in order to make some upgrades to their spacecraft.

By that time, regular orbital tourist flights will have become almost routine. Moreover, one has the option to experience weightlessness for far less buying a ticket on one of the various companies that fly “vomit comet” airplanes.

One wonders if the demand for these flights will be sustainable. We shall see.

FAA approves commercial launch license for Virgin Galactic

Capitalism in space: FAA today approved Virgin Galactic’s commercial launch license, allowing it to fly commercial paying tourists on its suborbital spacecraft, VSS Unity.

When Virgin Galactic will begin doing so remains uncertain. There have been rumors that the company is thinking of quickly scheduling a flight carrying Richard Branson for July 4th, thus beating Jeff Bezos’s planned July 20th into space. However, the company has denied this, referring back to its announced schedule.

Virgin Galactic has previously set out a schedule for this year, as it continues to mold the kind of service it plans to offer its commercial customers. This would see four of the company’s employees climb aboard Unity (along with the two pilots) for the next flight, to get a sense of the experience that future ticketed passengers will enjoy.

The flight after that is likely to see Sir Richard himself go to the edge of space, as a statement of readiness for commercial service.

And it’s then on the subsequent outing that the company is expected to start earning revenue from carrying people – although this is a mission that has been block booked by the Italian Air Force, which is going to put several payload specialists aboard Unity to supervise a number of microgravity experiments.

Regardless of when Branson’s first flight will be, that first commercial flight will come about fourteen years after the date Branson first predicted for such a flight. In 2004 he predicted he would fly by 2007 after hundreds of test flights, followed then by more hundreds of commercial flights each year. None of that ever happened, nor does it look like the flight numbers will ever approach his prediction.

Next Blue Origin test flight before end of year

The competition heats up: Blue Origin not only intends to launch another test flight of its suborbital New Shepard rocket/capsule before the end of 2015, they hope to begin commercial unmanned flights by the second quarter of 2016.

Manned flights will follow, though they don’t say when. Based on this schedule, however, it appears that Blue Origin, which had hardly been on anyone’s radar for most of the last decade, is going to beat Virgin Galactic and XCOR in flying their first commercial flight.

A new company is now offering balloon flights to the edge of space for one third the price of a suborbital flight.

The competition heats up: A new company is now offering balloon flights to the edge of space for one third the price of a suborbital flight.

World View passengers will soar to an altitude of about 30 kilometers (about 100,000 feet) — far short of SpaceShipTwo’s intended 110-kilometer (68-mile) high peak. Inside the capsule there will be little sensation of microgravity. Rather, the whole point of the ride is the view. “You can be sitting up there having your beverage of choice watching this extraordinary spectacle of the Earth below you and the blackness of space,” project co-founder and Paragon president Jane Poynter told Discovery News. “It really is very gentle. You can be up at altitude for hours, for days for research if you need to be… I think we have the opportunity to give a really, really incredible experience to people — and for a lot less than most of what’s out on the market right now,” she said.