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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

19 July 2018

Blue Origin, owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, plans to webcast Wednesday's test flight, which is set for takeoff at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT; 9 a.m. CDT) from the company's sprawling test site north of Van Horn, Texas, around 100 miles (160 kilometers) east of El Paso. (Blue Origin via You Tube) New Shepard's capsule fires its retros as it touches down for a landing.

For Wednesday's flight, the spacecraft was loaded with a variety of experiments, including instrumentation provided by NASA to measure pressure, acoustics, acceleration and other factors, a WiFi experiment, a study of how fine particles interact in random collisions and another NASA experiment to learn more about how water droplets behave in microgravity.

Mannequin Skywalker had a smooth landing, Cornell reported.

That second flight saw the New Shepard booster lofting its Crew Module to an altitude of 329,839 feet before returning under powered control to an upright landing - marking the first time a suborbital rocket successfully landed after a straight-up/straight-down flight. "At Blue Origin, we're all about safety", she said.

While this flight was primarily meant to demonstrate the vehicle's escape system, the crew capsule carried eight research and technology demonstration payloads, similar to what the vehicle has done on previous suborbital test flights.

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

The uncrewed test flight is the third one using Blue Origin's most recent model of the single-stage vehicle.

"Just another day at the office", said Cornell. The hardware used in previous tests has been retired and put on exhibit at Blue Origin's Florida rocket factory, where the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will be built.

Eventually, up to six passengers at a time could get on board the New Shepard spaceship, which flies under autonomous control.

In a brief statement announcing Wednesday's flight, Blue Origin offered no further details on the objectives or the technical parameters for the planned high-altitude escape motor test. That first crewed flight could take place before the end of the year. A separate employee said prices would begin at $200,000, according to Reuters.

"It's coming", said Cornell, who's in charge of astronaut sales as well as launch commentary.

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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever