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New Shepard taking flight. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin is planning to launch its 13th uncrewed flight of its suborbital New Shepard system on Thursday, the Jeff Bezos-founded company announced.

Why it matters: The flight will mark the first New Shepard test of 2020. This system last flew in December 2019.

Details: New Shepard is expected to lift off at 11am ET from Blue Origin's West Texas facility.

  • If successful, the test flight will mark this New Shepard's seventh launch and landing.
  • According to Blue Origin, the vehicle will bring 12 commercial payloads along for the ride, including a lunar landing sensor the company says could one day be used on the Moon.
  • Between the lines: Blue Origin is currently leading a team that's competing to win a contract to build NASA a human-rated landing system that could bring astronauts to the Moon as part of its Artemis program.

The big picture: The New Shepard capsule is designed to one day take paying passengers on flights to the edge of space, allowing them to see Earth against the blackness of space and experience weightlessness.

  • Blue Origin also has plans to build large rockets — like the New Glenn currently in development — that will be able to fly people and payloads to orbit and beyond at some point in the future.

How to watch: You can see the launch live via webcast from Blue Origin on Thursday starting about 30 minutes before liftoff.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 1, 2019 - Science

Deep Dive: The new global race to space

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A few years ago, a Silicon Valley billionaire decried that he and his friends dreamed of flying cars, and instead got 140 characters. He was wrong: They, along with entrepreneurs and governments around the world, got much more — a space race on steroids.

The big picture: From Dubai to the U.S., Tokyo to Moscow, Tel Aviv to Beijing and more, billionaires, privateers and political leaders are vying to land on the Moon, colonize Mars, mine asteroids — and just get off the Earth. "Whatever we have evolved into hundreds and thousands of years from now, we'll look at these decades as when the human race moved off the planet," said Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation.

How NASA and the Space Force might fare under Biden

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden hasn't gone out of his way to talk about outer space during his presidential campaign. That could be bad news for NASA's exploration ambitions, but good news for the Space Force.

The big picture: NASA faces two threats with any new administration: policy whiplash and budget cuts. In a potential Biden administration, the space agency could get to stay the course on the policy front, while competing with other priorities on the spending side.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jun 2, 2020 - Science

NASA passes the torch

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the historic crewed SpaceX launch last weekend, NASA passed the torch to private companies that will need to step up to build the economy the space agency envisions in orbit.

Why it matters: This new era of spaceflight will likely be marked by new conflicts — possibly including product placement (like the Tesla that drove the astronauts to the pad on Saturday), safety concerns and cultural differences between companies, the space agencies and people they serve.

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