Still in the afterglow of Blue Origin’s 14th flight of its New Shepard rocket, Jeff Bezos’ space tourism venture is planning another suborbital rocket launch to keep the momentum going in 2021. According to reports, these next missions could be some of the biggest in the company’s history.
This comes from a filing with the FCC to gain the approval of the use of certain frequencies during a period the launch attempt will be made. The application states Blue Origin will need the use of these frequencies from April 1 to June 1 this year.
Based on conversations with people familiar with the Blue Origin process, CNBC speculates speculate that the next launch, NS-15, will be a dress rehearsal for the first crewed flight. They will board crew members and then exit them before the mission before launching their first crewed flight on NS-16.
The timeline for these missions is intense for the company that usually takes several months between flights, but they plan to launch NS-15 by the end of February and NS-16 in April. It looks likes Blue Origin already has a license to operate a launch during the time frame of NS-15 and these new filings cover the launch window for NS-16.
Moving to be able to launch every six weeks would be extraordinary for the tourism company, and this could be the start of regular operational flights, which would be a huge milestone. While this is all just speculation, from what we could pick up from their NS-14 stream this was the 1st launch of their 4th booster and this booster will be the one that will begin to fly crew on it. The capsule itself seems to have neared completion with some finishing upgrades for crewed flight as well, and they seem to have their process down for launching these rockets.
While FCC filings give us insight into possible space operations happening, what we need to see for a better understanding of the timeline will be TFRs. Similar to SpaceX’s Starship, since we don’t receive public updates on the program, we need to watch for these milestones to understand when we will see the next flight.