A Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft - the vehicle Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is developing to carry tourists on sub-orbital rides into space -rocketed away from Texas early Wednesday and then fired its abort motor to quickly push the capsule away in a high-altitude test of its safety systems.
Wednesday's passenger was Mannequin Skywalker, an instrumented dummy in a blue flight suit that's flown before, plus science experiments.
The mission went according to plan, with both spacecraft landing safely at the end of the 11-minute mission.
Despite the fact that this is a test, there are payloads aboard New Shepard.
Blue Origin plans high-altitude escape test on suborbital launch Wednesday
The New Shepard booster is created to land similarly to SpaceX's Falcon 9 reusable rocket, falling back down to Earth and using the last of its fuel to perform a powered landing at a landing zone.
Likewise during Wednesday's flight, the booster appeared to behave normally despite the sudden rush of exhaust and the powerful thrust of the abort motor.
The reusable New Shepard rocket settles to a picture-perfect touchdown.
Some of those payloads include the Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 from NASA's Johnson Space Center; Vibration Isolation Platform from Controlled Dynamics; and a communications technology tool from Solstar.
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"It's an important test in our march towards flying humans into space, which hopefully will be soon", Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, during a company webcast of the test.
For instance, NASA flew an experiment created to measure the conditions inside the crew capsule during the flight test, whereas Santa Fe company Solstar, which also had cargo on New Shepard's Mission 8, tested out its Wi-Fi access during the new mission. After reaching the edge of space, the capsule separated from the rocket booster and a few seconds later the escape motor fired, propelling the capsule laterally away from the main rocket.
If all goes well, the demonstration may well see Blue Origin closer to flying people on brief trips to space. After a successful launch, it will be available for use on the capsule's next flight.
The reusable New Shepard booster is created to take off from a launch pad, climb to the internationally-recognized boundary of space at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), and land nearby with rocket thrust and aerobrakes.
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Piloted test flights are expected to start later this year, but no target dates have been announced.
Although Blue Origin is yet to provide details, it is understood the company has already purchased the first landing ship for returning New Glenn boosters.
"We have not set ticket pricing and have had no serious discussions inside of Blue on the topic".
Blue Origin is testing its New Shepard rocket for the ninth time.
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