Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

Jeff Bezos Blue Origin to Launch'High-Altitude Escape Motor Test Wednesday

The launch was webcast live on Blue Origin's website.

A team of engineers in West Texas is preparing Blue Origin's suborbital New Shepard booster for launch Wednesday on an uncrewed test flight aimed at demonstrating a key safety feature for space tourists and scientists riding on future rockets soaring to the edge of space.

The company plans to start selling tickets next year for passengers to take short flights just past the edge of space, where they would experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. (Blue Origin via You Tube) New Shepard's capsule fires its retros as it touches down for a landing.

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Blue Origin's New Shepard spaceship blasts off for a high-altitude escape system test.

New Shepard's reusable booster comes in for a landing.

Another payload offered an unusual synergy with another part of Blue Origin.

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Numerous payloads will be flying in the spacecraft during the test, ranging from global customers, such as Thailand's "mu Space-1" - which includes an assortment of scientific and medical items, several textile materials they plan to use on their future space suit and apparel, and other special articles for their community partners - through to a suite of payloads from Blue Origin employees as a part of their internal "Fly My Stuff" program. "Mannequin had a smooth, smooth landing". About 20 seconds after the capsule separated, the capsule fired its solid-propellant escape motor in a planned test of its performance at high altitudes.

But if all goes well, she said, "it's going to be a sweet ride". 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. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development.

Blue Origin continue to take 2020 for the maiden flight of the New Glenn rocket, which like its smaller sister New Shepard, will include a booster that will return for reuse. The Reuters news agency, quoting an unnamed source, recently reported that tickets were expected to initially cost between $200,000 and $300,000, making it competitive with rides aboard the winged spaceplane Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is developing. It's coming, but we've got our eye on the prize, and we've got to make sure we understand our system through and through.

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