(CNN Español) — Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, prepares for its second “tourist” mission to suborbital space.
New Shepard’s 18th mission is scheduled to take off on Wednesday, October 13 at 10:00 am ET from a remote stretch of West Texas.
Among the crew of the NS-18 mission is 90-year-old actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the original series “Star Trek”; Audrey Powers, Vice President of Mission and Flight Operations for Blue Origin; Dr. Chris Boshuizen, former NASA engineer and co-founder of Planet Labs, and Glen de Vries, vice president of life sciences and health at Dassault Systèmes and co-founder of Medidata.
This mission occurs three months after the company’s first manned launch where Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos; Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pilot and one of the women from “Mercury 13”; and a recent 18-year-old high school graduate named Oliver Daemen took a supersonic journey to the edge of space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
As on the first voyage, the NS-18 mission crew will enjoy about 4 minutes of weightlessness during an 11-minute suborbital journey into space.
The launch of the NS-18 mission will be streamed live on the Blue Origin website beginning at 8:30 am ET (Miami time).
The release timeline:
T-7.5 hours: the rocket moves to the launch pad
T-3 hours: propellant charge begins
T-45 minutes: astronauts head to the launch tower
T-35 minutes: astronauts begin to enter the crew capsule
T-24 min: crew capsule hatch closes
Competition from space tourism
Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson have a combined net worth of nearly $ 400 billion, roughly the size of Norway’s GDP. And the three men have decided to put large sums of their wealth into the pursuit of their space travel dreams, creating a modern space race in which ultra-rich men, rather than countries, aim for the stars.
But how different are the flights they offer? In addition to its duration — Blue Origin’s is 11 minutes, Virgin Galactic’s is 90 minutes, and SpaceX’s is 3 days — the maximum altitude of each flight is a key point of discussion.
In fact, it was Blue Origin who mockingly made a comparison suggesting that Virgin Galactic flights were not space travel, as Virgin Galactic’s VSS spacecraft does not fly above the Kármán line, an altitude that is internationally considered the space limit (100 km).
Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft surpasses the Kármán line by reaching a maximum altitude of 105 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, while Virgin Galactic’s VSS spacecraft reaches a maximum altitude of 86 kilometers.
And while the International Aeronautical Federation (IAF) and many other organizations use the Kármán line to determine when a space flight takes place, the United States Army and NASA have another definition of space. According to them, space begins 19 kilometers below the Kármán Line, which is 80 kilometers above the surface of the Earth.
For its part, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft reaches an altitude of 540 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
CNN’s Jackie Wattles contributed to this report.