New Shepard: What is the rocket that will carry William Shatner to space?

Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle lifts from the company's West Texas launch site on a suborbital test flight. (Blue Origin/REX/Shutterstock)
Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle lifts from the company’s West Texas launch site on a suborbital test flight. (Blue Origin/REX/Shutterstock)

William Shatner is set to become the oldest person in space later today when he flies into orbit on board a private spaceship.

The spaceship in question belongs to Blue Origin, the private space company set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

New Shepard, named after astronaut Alan Shepard is a reusable rocket that was explicitly designed for the job of taking tourists to space.

It consists of a 60ft (18m) rocket, with a six-person capsule resting atop it. The ship has air brakes, bidirectional rockets and landing gears that meant it can both take off and land.

The capsule at the tip of the rocket shaft features six observation windows Blue Origin says are nearly three times as tall as those on a Boeing 747 jetliner.

Star Trek legend William Shatner with Jeff Bezos as he prepares for his historic journey into space on Blue Origin s New Shepard rocket. Shatner, who is set to be the world s oldest astronaut at age 90, was shown discussing his epic voyage with billionaire Bezos in a new video released by Blue Origin on the eve of the October 13 launch. The pair are seen talking inside and outside the New Shepard s crew capsule at Blue Origin's West Texas base. Shatner says in the video: I m going up into space - I don t know how many people can say that. Jeff Bezos concept to make living and building in space and to make pollution a thing of the past, I mean what noble ambitions those are, and somebody has to start it. We are just at the beginning, but how miraculous that beginning is, how extraordinary it is to be part of that beginning. There is this mystique of being in space and much closer to the stars, and being weightless. I shall be entranced by the view of space. I want to look at that orb and appreciate its beauty and its tenacity, its sustaining this life of ours which allows us to look with awe and wonder at the miracle of space. There is an adventure in my life that I would not have had if I had not have done this. And it looks likes there is a great deal of curiosity about this fictional character Captain Kirk going into space, so let s go along with it and enjoy the ride. *BYLINE: Blue Origin/Mega. 12 Oct 2021 Pictured: Star Trek legend William Shatner with Jeff Bezos as he prepares for his historic journey into space on Blue Origin s New Shepard rocket. *BYLINE: Blue Origin/Mega. Photo credit: Blue Origin/Mega TheMegaAgency.com +1 888 505 6342
Star Trek legend William Shatner with Jeff Bezos as he prepares for his historic journey into space on Blue Origin s New Shepard rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin/Mega)

The ship itself is powered by an oxygen-rich liquefied-natural-gas-fueled staged-combustion rocket engine. Many people think it looks a bit like a giant space penis.

Captain Kirk’s trip aboard the New Shepard will have four broad stages.

Stages of the flight

Both the capsule and booster rocket will take off vertically until New Shepard reaches around 250,000ft (76km). From there, the capsule will detach and boost itself to about 350,000ft (106km).

This is when the crew inside will get their view of Earth and experience several minutes of weightlessness as they escape Earth’s gravity.

Jeff Bezos is launched with three crew members aboard a New Shepard rocket (Reuters)
Jeff Bezos is launched with three crew members aboard a New Shepard rocket (Reuters)

The booster rocket, meanwhile, will fall and land around two miles from the launchpad, thanks to those bidirectional rockets and a lot of computer smarts.

It will be followed by the capsule (also reusable) which will gently parachute back to the desert floor

The capsule carrying Bezos returns by parachute (Reuters)
The capsule carrying Bezos returns by parachute (Reuters)

Though this is only the second time Blue Origin has flown a crewed rocket to space, the New Shepard has undergone 15 test flights without passengers.

Blue Origin hasn’t suffered any of the dramatic crashes that largest rival SpaceX has. Although in 2016, Elon Musk’s company did intentionally crash one of their rockets as a test.

If you want to watch Shatner’s flight as it happens, the company will be livestreaming the event on its website here.

MORE : How to watch William Shatner fly to space with Blue Origin today

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