Blue Origin launch today Six people to join supersonic suborbital space

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New York (CNN Business)Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is slated to launch its fourth space tourism mission today as the company continues its mission to make high-speed flights to the edge of space a mainstay of pop culture. The six passengers, which include a Blue Origin engineer and five paying customers, are slated to take off aboard their Blue Origin New Shepard capsule Thursday after 9:30 am ET. Those interested in catching the action — which is expected to look much like Blue Origin’s three earlier suborbital jaunts — can tune into Blue Origin’s webcast Thursday morning. Boosted by a 60-foot-tall rocket, they will soar to more than three times the speed of sound, or more than 2,000 miles per hour. Their capsule will vault past the Kármán Line at 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) altitude, which is widely recognized as the altitude at which outer space begins. And at the peak of the flight, they’ll experience a few minutes of weightlessness and, out their window, sweeping Earthly views. It’s not clear how much the trip cost the five paying customers. Blue Origin has not publicly disclosed a fixed per-seat price point, though it had auctioned off one ticket for $28 million. But that was for a seat to ride alongside Bezos himself, and the auction winner didn’t end up going. (He is slated to fly later this year, however.) Blue Origin’s direct competitor, Virgin Galactic, sells seats for $450,000. This flight had been slated to include Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, but he dropped out of the mission after Blue Origin announced a schedule change earlier this month. The company cited the need for additional ground tests on the New Shepard rocket as the reason for the delay. Gary Lai, who has been with Blue Origin for 18 years and holds several patents related to the New Shepard rocket’s design, flew in Davidson’s place and was the sole non-paying customer on the flight. Lai’s crewmates included Marty Allen, an investor and the former CEO of a party supply store; Jim Kitchen, an entrepreneur and business professor; George Nield, a former associate administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation; Marc Hagle, an Orlando real estate developer, and his wife, Sharon Hagle, who founded a space-focused nonprofit. Business activity in space — largely led by SpaceX — is booming. From building cheaper rockets and designing new uses for satellites to imagining futuristic space hotels, the industry has attracted record levels of investment. After years of quiet development, Blue Origin’s space tourism rocket made its crewed launch debut last year with Bezos, flying alongside a heroine of the space community, Wally Funk, as well as his brother Mark Bezos and a paying customer. Since then, Blue Origin made headlines for flying other well-known names on two subsequent flights, including Star Trek star William Shatner and Good Morning America host Michael Strahan.

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