Blue Origin is launching its New Shepard suborbital rocket for the first time in 2021, with a liftoff planned for 9:45 AM CST (10:45 AM EST/7:45 AM PST) [Update: Now targeting 10:57 AM CST (11:57 AM EST/8:57 AM PST)] from its launch facility in West Texas. This is the 14th flight of New Shepard, and it includes some key testing activities for Blue Origin in preparation for its first human spaceflight missions.
The company has been flying a crew capsule on board its rocket for quite a while now, albeit empty (or rather, loaded with scientific and other cargo, rather than people). This version includes some key systems that will be used when astronauts are inside, however, including communications systems, and cabin environment regulation technologies that will make the trip for private spacefarers more comfortable and safe.
Blue Origin has had 13 previous successful New Shepard launches, so one can reasonably expect things to go well today. But the company’s focus on that crew cabin and gathering data around systems crucial to human spaceflight is an exciting indicator that people could be on board that spacecraft sooner rather than later.
The stream above will begin 30 minutes before the liftoff time, so at around 10:15 AM EST/7:15 AM PST.