Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

Blue Origin New Shepard launch

Wednesday morning, Blue Origin launched a capsule-carrying New Shepard rocket from its facility in West Texas.

The company conducted a spaceflight test on 18 July 2018, launching the rocket into space and cleanly separating the booster and crew capsule - before both began their return to Earth. Its effectiveness is essential to ensuring the safety of any people who might ride aboard the capsule in the future.

After launch, the capsule separated from the rocket just like it should, and then its emergency motor ignited - just as it's supposed to during an emergency situation. Both the booster and the capsule landed safely less than 12 minutes after liftoff, the latter touching down softly on the desert floor under parachutes, sending up a plume of dust.

Blue Origin is testing its New Shepard rocket for the ninth time. Although some reports suggest the price of a ticket could be in the $200,000-to-$300,000 range, Blue Origin says no price has yet been set and no reservations are yet being taken.

In addition to Mannequin Skywalker, Blue Origin's in-cabin dummy, there will be scientific experiments, spacesuit material tests, WiFi access testing and more throughout the flight.

Booster landing
New Shepard’s reusable booster comes in for a landing

But if all goes well, she said, "it's going to be a sweet ride".

Today's mission marked the ninth flight test for the New Shepard spaceship, and the third up-and-down round trip for the same capsule and booster. "But we've got our eyes on the prize". The propulsion module, about 30 meters away from the crew capsule when the motor fired, was unaffected by the test and made a powered vertical landing on a pad near the launch site.

Blue Origin has provided only vague schedules about when human flights would begin, with company officials saying recently they anticipated starting to fly humans on test flights by the end of this year.

One payload, called "Fly My Stuff", included personal items supplied by company employees.

Along with the suborbital New Shepard rockets and spacecraft, Blue Origin also is developing a powerful new engine, the BE-4, to help boost satellites into orbit using much larger New Glenn rockets. The New Glenn will compete with United Launch Alliance's upcoming Vulcan rocket and with SpaceX boosters in the USA launch market.

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