New Shepard
Blue Origin's New Shepard booster landing back to the ground after conducting its mission. Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’ spacefaring giant Blue Origin has prepared its suborbital tourist spaceship, the New Shepard, for its second mission of the year.

The spaceship, a combo of a reusable rocket and passenger-customized space capsule, will take to the skies on July 18 as part of its ninth test flight. The vehicle will lift-off at around 10:00 a.m. EDT (2:00 p.m. GMT) and fly Blue Origin’s famous Mannequin Skywalker human dummy and other scientific payloads into the orbit.

According to a recent tweet from the company, the upcoming flight will focus on conducting a "high-altitude escape motor test," which would involve pushing the rocket to its limits. The entire event will be live streamed from Blue Origin’s Texas test facility, with the broadcast beginning on its website 20 minutes prior to launch.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle features vertical lift-off and touch-down capabilities, which means the vehicle will fly towards the orbit, probably higher than the last time around (351,000 feet in April’s flight), and then return back to the ground. Meanwhile, the capsule will use the deployed parachutes to fly slowly back home.

The company ultimately aims to develop the capabilities of the vehicle to the point where it can easily ferry passengers for quick orbital trips and provide them with a sense of weightlessness for a few minutes. This is pretty similar to what Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic aims to do. However, unlike Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin has still not revealed the cost or other intricate details of such flights.

Though the crew capsule of the New Shepard has been upgraded with bigger windows, six seats, and other features, the vehicle is still carrying "Mannequin Skywalker" — the dummy which provides information related to the forces that come into play in different scenarios. This will be its third flight since December, but according to company representatives, it could be one of the final such missions as they might begin crewed flights by the end of this year, considering all things move according to the plan.

“We continue to be head down on making sure the configuration is good and stable and ready to fly,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told SpaceNews in March. “Once we all feel confident that that’s the case, then we’ll have the conversation internally about what prices are and what that whole process looks like.”

That said, it is also worth noting the dummy won’t be alone on its next journey. Blue Origin is sending personal belongings of its employees under the "fly my stuff" program as well as scientific experiments to leverage a few minutes of microgravity conditions for different projects. This would include Wi-Fi in space, medicines, and textiles for future space suits.

Apart from this, the capsule will also carry some technologies to monitor the conditions prevailing inside the vehicle such as magnetic fields, pressure, temperature, CO2 and acoustic conditions in the cabin.