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Blue Origin Launches 6th Consecutive Mission for Reusable New Shepard Rocket

By Jeffrey Hill | December 11, 2019

The New Shepard NS-12 returns safely to Earth. (Photo courtesy of Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-12 mission, launching its ninth commercial payload and 100th customer into orbit on a New Shepard rocket. This was the sixth consecutive launch of the specific reusable New Shepard rocket used in the NS-12 mission, marking a milestone for Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ commercial launch service.

Unfavorable weather conditions pushed the launch back to 1 p.m. EST Wednesday afternoon. After successfully releasing its payload, the New Shepard rocket returned to Earth for a safe landing approximately seven-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. The NS-12 mission represents Blue Origin’s first attempt to launch a full-stack payload. The rocket’s cargo included an educational payload from Columbia University that was designed and built by undergraduate students under advisement by astronaut Dr. Michael Massimino to study the acute impacts of microgravity environments on cell biology.

The New Shepard rocket also carried a recycling technology payload from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, called “OSCAR.” It is designed to create a mixture of gasses that could be used for propulsion or life support from common waste on a deep space human exploration mission.

Finally, the rocket sent thousands of postcards from students around the world into space for Blue Origin’s non-profit “Club for the Future.” The Club, which was revealed alongside Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander at the SATELLITE show in May 2019, aims to inspire future generations to pursue STEM-related careers. The rocket also carried two art projects selected as winners of a contest Blue Origin held in partnership with the rock band OK Go. The contest, called Art in Space, gave high school and middle school students a chance to send art experiments into space.

“As we move towards verifying New Shepard for human spaceflight we are continuing to mature the safety and reliability of the vehicle,” Blue Origin said in a statement.

Blue Origin’s upcoming manned spaceflight mission, Test Flight 1, will send a crew into suborbital space on a New Shepard launched from the Corn Ranch Spaceport in Texas. The mission is currently scheduled for November 13, 2020.