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New Shepard set for 13th launch, testing key Moon & space superfood technologies

The NS-13 mission will fly 12 commercial payloads to and from space, testing technology to return to the Moon and growing superfoods in space.

new shepard rocket. credit: blue origin

Blue Origin is scheduled to launch their New Shepard rocket on at 9:35 EDT on Tuesday, October 11 per the company's Twitter account. The mission was previously scrubbed on Sept 24 due to a power glitch. 

NS-13 will be the 13th mission for the program as a whole, and the 7th mission for this specific New Shepard rocket. 

You can watch the live webcast here. Coverage begins roughly 30 minutes before the scheduled launch.

NS-13 Payloads

The mission contains 12 payloads, ranging from projects testing super foods in space to lunar landing technology. The payloads are attached to the outside of the rocket, a first for the company. This will allow provide proven experience and future opportunities for payloads for sensing, exposure and sampling.

With a scheduled Moon landing date of 2024, NASA has expedited dozens of projects by hiring private companies to handle certain needs and requirements. 

Space is super, needs super space food

Much like rural areas with harsh environments on Earth, growing food in the unforgiving conditions of space is a main challenge to the future of humans in space. 

The Space Lab Technologies payload will fly a hydroponic chamber for growing edible aquatic plants in space, called the LilyPond. LilyPond enables crops that produce a large amount of nutrients in small volume to grow, and recycle water for the next crop. One such plant is Duckweed, also known as water lentils.

More on Duckweed, per NASA's website

"Looking at these parameters, Space Lab zeroed in on duckweed (also known as water lentils) – as their test crop. With its high protein content (up to 45%) and a rich supply of antioxidants, amino acids, and Omega-3s, the crunchy vegetable is sometimes called a superfood. Escobar said these rapidly growing plants are ideal for space because they do not require soil or another growing media – which means fewer materials, less mass, and less waste for resource-intensive space missions. But realizing the promise of such plants requires the right technology."

The NS-13 mission will provide researches with microgravity data, which will provide insight into capabilities and future performance.  

The live stream for NS-13 begins at roughly 9:05 EDT.