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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is set to launch its New Shepard rocket for the fifth time this year on Wednesday, and Canadian actor William Shatner will join the second crewed spaceflight for the company.
Called NS-18, this New Shepard mission will carry a crew of four: Shatner, Blue Origin VP of mission and flight operations Audrey Powers, Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen and Medidata co-founder Glen de Vries.
Shatner, who famously played Capt. Kirk in the original “Star Trek” television series, is set to become the oldest person to fly into space at 90. The record was previously held by aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, who at 82 flew on Blue Origin’s first crewed launch in July.
The rocket will launch from Blue Origin’s private facility in West Texas, aiming to reach above 100,000 kilometers (or more than 340,000 feet altitude) before returning to Earth safely a few minutes later. From start to finish, the launch is expected to last about 11 minutes. The crew is set to experience about three minutes of weightlessness.
New Shepard’s capsule will accelerate to more than three times the speed of sound to pass beyond the 80 kilometer boundary (about 50 miles) the U.S. uses to mark the edge of space. The capsule is flown autonomously, with no human pilot, and returns under a set of parachutes to land in the Texas desert.
The New Shepard rocket booster is also reusable, and will attempt to land on a concrete pad near the launch site.
The company also flies New Shepard on cargo missions, such as the one in August, which carry research payloads in the capsule.