Editor's update for 12 pm ET: Blue Origin has called off its launch attempt today for the NS-12 New Shepard flight due to unacceptable weather. The next launch attempt will be Wednesday, Dec. 11, with liftoff time targeted for 12:43 pm ET (1743 GMT). Read our full story.
Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, will launch a spacecraft filled with science experiments — and thousands of postcards from kids — today (Dec. 10), but only if Mother Nature allows.
The company's reusable New Shepard spacecraft is scheduled to launch on the suborbital NS-12 mission at 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT) from Blue Origin's West Texas proving grounds.
You can watch Blue Origin's launch here and on Space.com's homepage, courtesy of the company's webcast, beginning at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT). You can also watch the launch directly from Blue Origin's website here.
Blue Origin is watching the weather, however, which may not be the best for a launch.
"Current weather conditions aren't as favorable as we’d like, but we're continuing to keep an eye on the forecast," Blue Origin wrote in a mission update.
The NS-12 mission will mark Blue Origin's twelfth New Shepard launch and sixth using this particular New Shepard spacecraft. The vehicle made its first flight in December 2017, with two more in 2018 and two more flights this year in January and May, respectively. NS-12 will be Blue Origin's ninth commercial mission using a New Shepard vehicle.
For this flight, New Shepard is carrying a series of science experiments for NASA and other customers, including Blue Origin's 100th payload for customer, the company reported. Some of the science experiments include:
- A NASA "space plant" experiment to study gene expression in microgravity;
- OSCAR: A NASA recycling technology test to turn trash into water and gases like hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane;
- An experiment by Columbia University students in New York City to study the effects of microgravity on cell biology;
- Two winning art projects from the Art in Space contest with rock back OK Go, which partnered with Blue Origin in the contest for middle school and high school students.
Packed among the experiments are thousands of postcards with handwritten messages and artwork from children from Blue Origin's nonprofit Club for the Future. Blue Origin launched the club in May to inspire children in space exploration. Its first project is to launch 10,000 postcards from kids containing their visions of humanity's future in space.
The NS-12 launch will be New Shepard's first flight in seven months, during which time Blue Origin has unveiled plans for a crewed lunar lander for NASA and has been working on a passenger version of New Shepard.
"As we move towards verifying New Shepard for human spaceflight we are continuing to mature the safety and reliability of the vehicle," Blue Origin wrote in its mission update.
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