Watch how Blue Origin plans to launch its first six-person crew into space, with Michael Strahan on board

This morning, Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company Blue Origin is expected to launch another crew of customers to the edge of space and aft. The crew cabin will be a bit more crowded than usual: a total of six passengers will travel to space inside Blue Origin’s New Shepard tourist rocket, the largest group the company has ever had. sent on a flight.

This makes this theft a little unusual. The launch also comes after an FAA investigation into the safety of Blue Origin’s rockets resulted in an inconclusive resolution.

On board is a mix of famous guests and paid space flight enthusiasts. In particular, Michael Strahan, host of Hello america and former NFL rusher for the New York Giants, will fly, along with Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of Alan Shepard, who was the first American in space. Both are considered guests, so they did not pay for their seats. Flying with them are paying customers: Evan Dick, an investor, Lane Bess, the founder of Bess Ventures, and Bess’s son, Cameron Bess. Dylan Taylor, a major investor in the spaceflight industry, will complete the group.

This will be the third time Blue Origin has launched people to the edge of space from the company’s testing facilities in Van Horn, TX. For these three missions, Blue Origin made sure to have some sort of star on board. The company’s first crewed mission carried Bezos, as well as legendary female aviator Wally Funk, while the second flight notably carried William Shatner, best known for playing Captain James T. Kirk on Star trek. For those first two sightseeing flights, however, Blue Origin flew only four crews. Videos of the interior of the crew cabin showed that the interior was a little crowded, even with such a small number of people. It will be interesting to see how a crew of six fares, which is the maximum number of people that the capsule is supposed to contain.

Michael Strahan training in one of New Shepard’s passenger seats
Image: Blue origin

The theft comes just after the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed it had closed an investigation into Blue Origin’s safety culture without finding any substantive issues. The FAA, which is responsible for licensing commercial rocket launches, began investigating the company in early October after 21 current and former Blue Origin employees published an essay alleging a culture of widespread sexual harassment and safety issues with the company’s rockets. The essay, written by former Blue Origin employee communications manager Alexandra Abrams, argued that employees are too afraid to talk about security breaches for fear of reprisal.

“In the opinion of an engineer who signed this trial, ‘Blue Origin has been lucky that nothing has happened so far,'” said the trial. “A lot of the authors of this essay say they wouldn’t fly a Blue Origin vehicle.”

When the test came out, the FAA said it was “reviewing the information.” However, like CNN first reported on Friday and the FAA has confirmed The edge, his investigation is now closed. Steven Kulm, public affairs specialist at the FAA, said The edge that the FAA found “no specific safety concerns” after investigating allegations against the company’s human space flight program. When asked to comment, Linda Mills, vice president of communications at Blue Origin, said: “The FAA statement is correct.”

However, in an email obtained by The edge, FAA officials told Abrams that the agency was unable to conduct a full investigation because no other engineering or security experts from Blue Origin showed up to discuss the company’s issues which were raised in Abrams’ letter. The emails show that FAA investigators tasked Abrams with convincing his former colleagues to speak up. Abrams passed on key information to investigators, including email exchanges between Blue Origin employees detailing concerns about capsule recovery operations and a memo written by a departing employee about safety issues. She also asked nearly three people to provide written statements, but the individuals ultimately backed down for fear their identities would be released, Abrams said. The edge. In an email to Abrams, the FAA noted that those who came forward could not be afforded protection because there were no laws in place to protect whistleblowers at space companies.

A copy of the FAA email to Abrams, sent on December 6, is below:

It has been several weeks since our last contact with you and while we know that you have done everything possible to try to persuade members of your group to come forward, no technical expert has contacted us or provided any specific documentation regarding the allegations. of security. We understand that there are no federal “whistleblower protection” laws protecting employees of commercial space companies from retaliation for reporting security concerns. This is in stark contrast to the extensive protections available to whistleblowers in the commercial aviation industry. We believe this has been a huge factor in our inability to pursue this investigation further.

As a result of careful consideration of the limited information provided, several discussions with you, and consultation with applicable laws and regulations, the FAA has not been able to fully investigate this matter and, therefore, has not could justify the security concerns described in the document you provided. No further action can be recommended at this time.

Currently, the commercial space industry enjoys little federal oversight of security, thanks to what is known as the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act adopted in 2015. The law prohibits the FAA or other federal agencies from imposing safety regulations on the commercial space industry until 2023. The impetus of the law was to allow a space industry that is still in its infancy. beginnings to continue to develop and innovate without “cumbersome” regulations. This means that when the FAA issues launch licenses, it is solely responsible for ensuring that a rocket launch will not harm uninvolved people or property on the ground. The agency cannot dictate rules on how commercial space companies should make their vehicles or operations safer. Commercial space tourists fly by ‘informed consentWhich means they agree that the journey they are taking is inherently dangerous and risky.

After the original essay was released in October, the company has stayed true to its culture. “Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous opportunities for employees, including an anonymous 24/7 hotline, and will promptly investigate any new misconduct complaints, ”said a spokesperson for Blue Origin. The edge in a report.

To bring passengers to and from the edge of space, Blue Origin relies on its New Shepard rocket, a reusable vehicle designed to take off vertically from Earth and then land on the ground again. Passengers board the vehicle inside a crew cabin with reclined seats and large windows. Once the rocket reaches a certain altitude, the cabin separates from the top of the rocket and enters space, allowing pilots to experience a few moments of weightlessness. The capsule and the rocket return to Earth; the rocket lands upright, while the capsule lands gently using parachutes.

Typically, New Shepard attains an altitude of around 62 miles when in flight, which most consider to be above the limit of space. When today’s passengers return to Earth, all should be granted commercial astronaut wings by the FAA. These wings have historically been given to people who fly above 50 miles on a commercial spacecraft. However, the FAA announced this week that it will end the practice by the end of the year and will simply list all future business tourists and travelers who access the space on the agency’s website. This means that this crew could be the last to have wings.

Today’s New Shepard launch is scheduled to take off this morning at 9:45 a.m.ET from the Blue Origin launch site in Van Horn. Blue Origin plans to begin live coverage 90 minutes before launch.

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