Jeff Bezos is sending his girlfriend to space, no launch date set for first all-female mission

Remember in 2021 when we were so excited that both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic would come online and show a glimpse of a potential space tourism boom? Yet here we are with some exciting news, but neither company is currently capable of launching, and we don’t know when they will return fully. Sigh.

Lauren Sánchez to lead all-female New Shepard flight

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lauren Sánchez, girlfriend to Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, announced she will lead an all-female crew on a New Shepard launch sometime in the next year. Sánchez, a former TV host, is now a helicopter pilot and passionate about growing the number of female pilots in the industry. She states she tries to fly at least three times a week and usually flies Bezos and their families around. Currently, Sánchez is growing not one but two production companies, Adventure & Fellowship and Black Ops Aviation, and has worked on many of the promotional works released by Blue Origin.

We don’t know much else about Sánchez’s spaceflight other than it should take place before early 2024 and that she is very excited and nervous about the flight.

I’m super excited about it. And a little nervous. I’ve wanted to be in the rocket from the jump, so [Bezos] is excited to make this happen with all of these women. It’s funny what he said the other day: “Fly fast; take chances.” That’s his motto. He’s very encouraging and excited, and he’s thrilled we’re putting this group together. 

Lauren Sánchez, Wall Street Journel Interview

When might Blue Origin return to launching?

Blue Origin, however, is staying very quiet on future launches, which usually isn’t a surprise, but this time it’s more concerning. Blue Origin hasn’t said a word since announcing it was investigating why the first stage failed in its last launch four months ago.

That launch, NS-23, failed during ascent, forcing the uncrewed capsule to perform an abort and a loss of the booster. Blue Origin was operating two sets of New Shepard rockets, one for uncrewed research missions and a second crewed-rated version for commercial flights. This research rocket was the older of the two, which we don’t know if that had anything to do with the failure since neither Blue Origin nor the FAA (who oversees commercial spaceflights) have made any statements on the cause yet.

Ignition of NS-23’s abort motor before the booster’s engine shutdown early.

While we have no info on ticket sales and if they have been affected by this failure, if I were a customer, this would be the time I would have wanted clear and regular updates from Blue Origin. Instead, the only sign of life we’ve seen from the New Shepard program was a filing with the FCC for a possible launch between April 1 to June 1. However, a spokesperson from Blue Origin told Ars Technica not to look too much into that as they file rolling requests to the FCC for continuous launch coverage.

So… now what? Well, we will have to wait for Blue Origin to release what it found went wrong during NS-23. Then whether or not they will be moving their crew-rated booster to research flight duties and building a new one or if the new booster will be for uncrewed research flights. At this point, I’m not holding my breath for anything other than one update when this is all over, which is hopefully soon.

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