Blue Origin, the billionaire Jeff Bezos private space company, launched its passenger spaceship New Shepard on a test flight on Sunday (April 29) with an astronaut dummy, experimenting with its highest spaceflight ever.
The new Shepard 2.0 rocket and capsule, both of which had previously flown in space, departed from Blue Origin's launch site in West Texas at 1:06. EDT (1706 GMT). Despite several hours of delay (thunderstorm thwarted a 9:45 EDT start target) and countdown for last-minute checks, the flight seemed to be flawless.
"Another spectacular test mission," said Ariane Cornell of Blue Origin, a launch webcast. "Everything looks nominal from here." [Flashback: Blue Origin̵
Blue Origins launched New Shepard to a target altitude of 347.485 Foot (105.913 meters), Cornell said after the start. That's nearly 66 miles (106 km), slightly higher than the company's typical 62-mile (100 km) target – the height widely accepted as the limit for space, Cornell said.
"Today we are" The system is getting a little harder, "said Cornell during the launch webcast.
The launch on Sunday was the second flight of Blue Origins new Shepard 2.0 vehicle (after a successful launch) Test launch in December 2017) and the eighth test flight in the company's New Shepard program An earlier version of New Shepard launched a series of missions in 2015 and 2016 before she retired.
The test flight took about 10 minutes, 19 seconds, from start to landing on Sunday n. After launching the New Shepard capsule, the booster parted and returned to its launch pad where it made a smooth vertical landing. The capsule fell back to earth a few minutes later, landing on parachutes and muffling its own landing with retrorockets.
The new Shepard 2.0 spacecraft from Blue Origin is designed to fly 6 passengers on suborbital space tourism flights & # 39; t orbit the Earth – and can also carry commercial payloads and experiments. It has 6 large windows to allow paying passengers a wide view of the Earth from space. However, Blue Origin has not yet announced how much a ticket to New Shepard will cost.
For the mission on Sunday, Blue Origins drove a dummy astronaut – affectionately called "Mannequin Skywalker" – in a passenger seat next to a series of customer science and technology experiments. These payloads include an experiment for NASA's Johnson Space Center; several others from European universities funded by the German Aerospace Center (DLR); and a "Schmitt Space Communicator" for the company Solstar, who named the experiment after the astronaut Harrison Schmitt (a Solstar consultant) of Apollo 17.
More New Shepard test flights are expected in the coming months. If all goes well, Blue Origin could start people on New Shepard this year, company officials said.
Meanwhile, Blue Origin is busy developing a larger rocket called New Glenn, which will launch missions from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the 2020s. Like New Shepard, the heavy-lift New Glenn rocket will be reusable, transporting people into space.
During the Sunday webcast, Cornell said that Blue Origins first New Shepard customers will get the first satellites on these orbital New Glenn space flights until the 2020s for a chance to fly.