Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin's 23rd mission will have no tourists
Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin has announced that its 23rd sub-orbital space flight will be launched on August 31. There won't be any tourists this time, though. Dubbed New Shepherd-23 (NS-23), the space flight will have 36 payloads from universities and other institutions. The vehicle will take off from Blue Origin's West Texas launch site at 9:30 am EDT (7 pm IST).
Why does this story matter?
- Earlier this month, we saw Blue Origin launching the first Egyptian and Portuguese astronauts into space. The company's next mission doesn't have such historical connotations, but it is as important as any.
- The importance of the mission stems from the fact that most of the payload it is carrying are experiments that will benefit humanity at large at a later point.
This is the company's first uncrewed flight since August 2021
The NS-23 is Blue Origin's fourth space flight this year and the first uncrewed mission since the NS-17 in August 2021. The company uses different vehicles for crewed and uncrewed missions. It will take off from Launch Site One in West Texas with 36 payloads. This will bring the total number of commercial payloads flown on the vehicle to over 150.
NS-23 will carry an experiment to study painting in space
The NS-23 mission's payloads include Infinity Fuel Cell's AMPES experiment to test the operational capability of hydrogen fuel cells in microgravity and Honeybee Robotics' ASSET-1 testbed to study the strength of planetary soils. ENGARTBOX, which attempts to overcome the challenge of producing a painting in an environment with no gravity, is also being launched.
NS-23 will have tens of thousands of postcards
It isn't just scientific studies and experiments that NS-23 is carrying. It will also have tens of thousands of postcards from Club for the Future, Blue Origin's non-profit. This is part of the company's 'Postcards to Space' program.
NASA funded 18 out of the 36 payloads
Two of the payloads on the space flight will be on the exterior of New Shepherd's booster for exposure to the space environment. NASA has funded 18 out of the 36 payloads. Notably, 24 payloads have been designed by students from schools, universities, and STEM-focused organizations, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR).
Number of commercial payloads rises to over 150
"This mission brings the total number of commercial payloads flown on the vehicle to more than 150," Blue Origin wrote. The company added, "This is double the number of education-focused payloads from previous payload flight manifests. In many cases, these payloads expose students as young as elementary school to STEM skills like coding, environmental testing, and CAD design often not taught until college."