Jeff Bezos ’Blue Origin launches its fourth New Shepard flight with a crew – a 10-minute rocket ride to the edge of space and back with five wealthy space tourists and the spacecraft’s chief designer.

Takeoff from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas is scheduled for Thursday shortly after 9 a.m. ET, two days later than planned, due to expected strong winds. It will be broadcast live on CBS News in the video player above.

Gary Lai, one of Blue Origin’s first employees and architect of the New Shepard program, was added to the team instead of the comedian Pete Davidson after startup delay and the conflict schedule is forced the star of “Saturday Night Live” is removed. Blue Origin does not disclose what caused the delay and what might be needed to fix the problem.

But for Lai, the space flight on the rocket he helped develop will give him the opportunity to personally evaluate “the safest spacecraft for man ever designed, built or operated.”

Crew of the fourth manned flight of New Shepard Blue Origin (left to right): Jim Kitchen, Mark Hagle, Sharon Hagle, Marty Allen, George Nild and spaceship architect Gary Lai.

Blue origin

“We are going to increase operations,” Lai told CBS News before the first flight of the New Shepard capsule with crew in 2019. “We hope that we will have dozens, and eventually hundreds and thousands of astronauts who will fly to New Shepard.”

Like everyone New Shepard flightsa single-stage launch vehicle will push the crew capsule out of the lower atmosphere to a height of about 65 miles – just above the internationally recognized “limit” of space – giving passengers three to four minutes of weightlessness before re-immersing themselves in the lower atmosphere.

Duration of the mission from launch to parachute landing: about 10 minutes.

Photos of the Blue Origin file showing the launch and landing of New Shepard.

Blue origin

Philanthropists and space enthusiasts Mark and Sharon Hagle will join Lai for suborbital flight; University of North Carolina professor and entrepreneur Jim Kitchen; George Nild, president of Commercial Space Technologies and former manager of NASA and FAA; and “angel investor” Marty Allen.

Blue Origin and its customers are not discussing the price of the New Shepard seat, but prices are believed to be in the half-million, if not higher, range. Lai, as an employee of the company, probably flies for free.

The launch will mark the 20th Blue Origin New Shepard flight and its fourth with passengers on board.

The first three flights with the crew showed “star power”, p Jeff Bezos takes off on the first manned mission, William Shatner the famous “Star Trek” aboard the second and TV presenter Michael Strehan and Laurie Shepard Charlie, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, aboard the third.

Davidson, like Strahan, Churchley and Shetner before him, was invited to the flight, which was clever marketing that guaranteed extensive media coverage. How the NS-20 flight will be covered after Davidson’s recall remains to be seen.

The NS-20 mission was the ninth manned commercial non-state suborbital space flight in a tough competition between Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by fellow billionaire Richard Branson.

Virgin has launched four manned flights of its VSS Unity cruise spacecraft, most recently sending Branson, two pilots and three crew members on July 11 last year. It is unclear when the company will make its next flight, but there will be three researchers on board representing the Italian Air Force. Commercial passenger flights are expected to begin later this year.

Blue Origin followed Bezas’ flight, launching NASA’s set of experiments on an unmanned mission on August 26. Then, on October 13, Shatner and three crew members were launched into the overall 18th flight of the company and the second with passengers. Strahan and his crew followed his example on December 9th.

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