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Blue Origin flies payloads on latest New Shepard flight

COLORADO SPRINGS — Blue Origin launched a New Shepard suborbital vehicle Aug. 25 on a mission carrying research and educational payloads as the company prepares for its next crewed flight.

New Shepard lifted off from the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas at 10:31 a.m. Eastern. The launch was delayed by nearly an hour because of two holds during the countdown, first for an unspecified vehicle issue and then a nearly half-hour hold for what the company called a “payload readiness issue.”

The crew capsule reached a peak altitude of 105.9 kilometers before landing under parachutes 10 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff. The vehicle’s booster made a powered landing on a nearby pad a few minutes earlier.

The launch was scheduled Aug. 25 but delayed one day. “We are working to verify a fix on a payload integration issue and taking an extra look before we fly,” a company spokesperson said Aug. 23, the day Blue Origin announced the slip.

The mission carried 18 research payloads inside the capsule, 11 of which are supported by NASA through its Flight Opportunities program. An additional NASA experiment mounted on the vehicle’s exterior collected data during the powered landing of the booster to test a sensor and computer system designed for future lunar landers.

The vehicle also carried paintings by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo on the parachute covers of the capsule as part of an art project by Uplift Aerospace.

This flight was the first for New Shepard since its inaugural crewed flight July 20, also from Launch Site One. That launch, using a different booster and capsule from this mission, sent company founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen to an altitude of more than 100 kilometers before landing 10 minutes after liftoff.

Company officials said during the launch webcast that the next crewed flight of New Shepard will take place “soon,” but didn’t offer a more specific schedule. At the July 20 flight, the company said it expected to perform two more crewed flights this year. The company has a backlog of nearly $100 million but has not disclosed the number of customers who have signed up for flights.

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