Blue Origin launches its fourth crewed New Shepard and first for 2022

Early Thursday morning, Blue Origin fueled up and launched its New Shepard rocket at its West Texas launch site. Onboard were six passengers, including the chief architect of the rocket.

Originally supposed to launch Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson, Blue Origin’s NS-20 was the company’s first launch of 2022 and fourth overall crewed launch. Hate them or love them, Blue Origin has been successful at beating its competitor, Virgin Galactic, at launching customers on sub-orbital flights.

Like previous New Shepard launches, the flight lasted about ten minutes and ended with a parachute-assisted touch down in the Texas desert. Yet again, Blue Origin’s countdown was plagued by long delays. At this point, it just seems expected, but the launch was successful, and all six crew members came away hopefully changed by their experience.

NS-20 crew members

Gary Lai: Chief architect of Blue Origin’s New Shepard, was one of the first 20 employees hired by Jeff Bezos to start the company.

George Nield: Founder and president of Commercial Space Technologies, its focus is to build out the commercial spaceflight industry. He previously served as associate administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation from 2008 to 2018.

Marty Allen: A “turnaround CEP” and angel investor, Allen has worked with companies like Party America and California Closet to help bring them out of bankruptcy and become successful national brands.

Jim Kitchen: A teacher and entrepreneur, Kitchen has also traveled to every UN-recognized country, making space his final frontier to visit.

Marc and Sharon Hagle: The first couple to fly to space together, Marc and Sharon have been big supporters of space and STEM engagement through the organization SpaceKids and philanthropy.

Are the NS-20 crew members astronauts?

According to Blue Origin, yes, and for future customers that’s all that really matters. The FAA ended its commercial astronaut wing program at the end of 2021. Meaning the crew members will only be listed on the administration’s website but will not be granted the title of “FAA Commercial Astronaut” and will not git FAA wings. However, they did receive wings from Blue Origin, which for now, is as close as it will get.

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