Blue Origin conducts successful New Shepard test flight

Company hopes to ferry tourists into suborbital space as early as next year.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Dec 15, 2017
Commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin successfully conducted a test flight of its New Shepard 2.0 spacecraft and vertical landing of its first stage booster on Tuesday, December 12.

The company, which hopes to begin sending tourists into suborbital space next year, released a video showing the launch and landing of its reusable capsule and rocket.

Capable of carrying six passengers along with cargo, the reusable New Shepard, named after Apollo moonwalker Alan Shepard, has an interior volume of 530 cubic feet (15 cubic meters). Its six observation windows are the largest ever on a spacecraft.

For an as-yet unspecified price, the capsule will carry tourists to an altitude of 307,000 feet (93,573 meters).

The capsule carrying crew members will return to Earth via parachute while the booster will land vertically at the launch site.

The December 12 test launch from Blue Origin's launch site in west Texas was uncrewed but did include 12 payloads, whose items ranged from student artwork to a circuit board. Together, the capsule and booster attained an altitude of 62 miles (99 km) before separating and separately coming back to Earth.

Carrying a dummy nicknamed "Mannequin Skywalker," the capsule successfully landed on the ground after deploying parachutes while the rocket booster vertically returned on a designated landing pad.

During both its ascent and descent, the booster exceeded the speed of sound, Mach 1 (767 miles per hour or 1,235 km per hour at room temperature), traveling as fast as Mach 2.94 on the way up and Mach 3.74 on the way down.

It decelerated down to just 6.75 miles per hour (10.9 km per hour) just before touching down on the landing pad, reaching the ground at a speed of one mile per hour (1.6 km per hour).

From launch to touchdown of both the capsule and booster, the entire trip took 10 minutes and six seconds.

This was the seventh test flight for variations of the New Shepard but the first in over a year.

"Today's flight of New Shepard was a tremendous success," said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith. "It marks the inaugural flight of our next-generation Crew Capsule as we continue step-by-step progress in our test flight program. Congratulations to the entire Blue Origin team on a job well done and to our payload customers that gathered important data on the suborbital environment."

Founded in 2000, Blue Origin is owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.



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