NS-22 launch
Blue Origin’s New Shepard lifts off Aug. 44 on the NS-22 crewed suborbital flight. Credit: Blue Origin webcast

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin launched its New Shepard suborbital vehicle on its sixth crewed flight in a little more than a year Aug. 4, carrying six people that included the first individuals from Egypt and Portugal to go to space.

New Shepard lifted off on the NS-22 mission at 9:56 a.m. Eastern from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas. The booster made a propulsive landing seven and a half minutes after launch while the capsule, which reached a peak altitude of approximately 107 kilometers, landed under parachutes 10 minutes and 20 seconds after liftoff.

As with three previous crewed flights, the NS-22 carried a crew of six people, who nicknamed themselves “Titanium Feather”:

  • Coby Cotton, co-founder of a YouTube channel whose seat was sponsored by MoonDAO, an organization that purchased two seats through cryptocurrency transactions;
  • Mário Ferreira, a Portuguese entrepreneur and investor in various industries who became the first person from Portugal to go to space;
  • Clint Kelly III, a retired computer sciences and robotics program manager who, when at DARPA in the 1980s, started a program that eventually led to driverless cars;
  • Vanessa O’Brien, a British-American explorer who previously climbed My. Everest and visited Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the world’s oceans;
  • Sara Sabry, an engineer who became the first Egyptian to go to space, and whose seat was sponsored by Space for Humanity, a nonprofit group; and
  • Steve Young, a Florida businessman who previously was chief executive of a telecommunications contractor.

With NS-22, Blue Origin has now flown 31 people on six crewed flights, including one person who flew twice. Those flights have taken place over a little more than a year, dating back to the NS-16 mission in July 2021 that carried company founder Jeff Bezos and three others to space.

In February, Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said the company this year would “easily double” the 14 people who went to space on three New Shepard crewed flights in 2021. So far this year, the company has flown 18 people on three flights.

Smith at the time declined to give a specific target in terms of number of flights, but said it would require bringing into service a new New Shepard vehicle as well as shortening the turnaround time between flights. The company has been using the same capsule, named RSS First Step, and booster for all six crewed flights to date, with a turnaround time of about two months between recent flights.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...