Blue Origin’s last launch was its landmark first human flight, carrying Jeff Bezos, his brother, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen to suborbital space. Today, it’s flying New Shepard again — without any people on board, this time, but with a key payload from NASA that will test technologies the agency is using to develop a human landing system for future missions to the Moon.
The NS-17 launch (which stands for New Shepard 17, since it’s the 17th time Blue Origin’s fully reusable suborbital rocket will be taking off) is set to take place at 9:35 AM EDT (6:35 AM PDT) from the company’s launch site in West Texas. The NASA payload on board will test technologies including a Doppler Lidar sensor array that should help future lunar landing craft get a very detailed picture of the details of the landing zone they’re targeting, and a Descent Landing Computer that handles processing of the sensor data. Blue Origin flew elements of this system once before, last October, and improvements have already been made based on that test that are integrated into this version.
The Blue Origin capsule also carries a number of other experiments, both form NASA and from academic institutions including the University of Florida. The launch plan includes a take-off, separation of the capsule, a controlled return powered landing for the booster, and a parachute-assisted landing for the capsule after a few minutes spent in suborbital space.
You can watch the livestream above, kicking off around 30 minutes prior to the target lift-off time.