Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

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The commercial space company, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is performing another test on its sub-orbital New Shepard spacecraft and launch vehicle.

While this test was unmanned, the reusable rocket is created to deliver payloads - and potentially tourists - to sub-orbital space.

These latest tests were also created to push the booster to its limit, which led to Blue Origin noting the potential they could lose the booster, not least during the focused testing on the escape system, centered around a solid motor firing for two seconds to fly the capsule free of a failing booster. The rocket chalked up a seemingly flawless launch and then fell back to Earth, re-starting its hydrogen-fueled BE-3 main engine, deploying four landing legs and settling to a picture-perfect touchdown on a circular pad.

"We are excited to join the upcoming New Shepard flight". "Mannequin had a smooth, smooth landing".

Both the booster and the capsule survived the test, returning to Earth with a soft landing. 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. After a successful launch, it will be available for use on the capsule's next flight.

As planned, the high-altitude firing pushed the capsule past the boundary of outer space, to an unofficial maximum altitude of 389,846 feet, or 119 kilometers.

It's also not yet known how much Blue Origin plans to charge for rides in a New Shepard capsule. Its tickets cost $250,000. "We have not set ticket pricing and have had no serious discussions inside of Blue on the topic", said the statement.

New Shepard is the first of a potential line of vehicles for Blue Origin. We haven't released those details. "But we've got our eyes on the prize". "That means understanding everything that's necessary for human spaceflight, including the escape system". "Just another day at the office", she said.

Other experiments included one to measure magnetic fields inside the capsule and another to test a vibration isolation platform that could be used by future payloads to further reduce vibrations for "higher precision microgravity studies".

If all goes well, the demonstration may well see Blue Origin closer to flying people on brief trips to space.

The flight will be Mission 9 for the company, and will feature a "high altitude escape motor test" which the company says will "push the rocket to its limits". Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development.

This year has already been packed with rocket launches, and many of those have come from SpaceX.

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