Blue Origin Launches New Crew Capsule on Third New Shepard Rocket

Andrew Cummings
December 15, 2017

Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin, successfully tested a reusable rocket-and-space-capsule system on Tuesday. On board was the test dummy "Mannequin Skywalker".

"'Mannequin Skywalker' our instrumented test dummy had a great flight", Blue Origin said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

In the 14 months since that abort-test flight, Blue Origin has been working on an upgraded version of the rocket-to improve its capacity for rapid, low-priced reusability-and the capsule in which six passengers will eventually ride to space inside.

The flight, which was the seventh overall by the New Shepard reusable booster, saw the rocket reach a maximum ascent velocity of Mach 2.94 (2,000 miles per hour, 3,200 km/h) and a maximum descent velocity of Mach 3.74 (2,847 miles per hour, 4.582 km/h) on the way back to Earth. The capsule, for the first time, has actual windows rather than windows painted on the side, as was the case for previous test flights.

With those three successful tests of the same booster under its belt, Blue Origin embarked on its fourth test, which again tested the New Shepard's ability to launch and land successfully. The sub-orbital rocket took off from the company's facility in West Texas around noon ET, a source at Blue Origin confirmed to The Verge. Blue Origin fully expected to crash the vehicle during its last launch in October 2016, too, but the rocket ultimately survived the test and was then retired from flight. Blue Origin's Crew Capsule 2.0 features large windows, and it carried a dozen commercial, education and research payloads on Tuesday's test flight. It again showed its landing skills, as shown on the video released by Mr. Bezos. "It marks the inaugural flight of our next-generation Crew Capsule as we continue step-by-step progress in our test flight program", noted Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin.

The New Shepard crew capsule after landing.

"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". The first rocket, which launched for the first time in April 2015, successfully deployed the capsule around 300,000 feet, but then crashed during the attempted landing due to a loss of hydraulic pressure in the control system on descent.

The New Shepard is created to provide passengers with a short, weightless experience during an 11-minute flight to space.

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