After several delays due to weather, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin successfully completed the eighth test launch of its New Shepard system.
Originally scheduled for 8:45 a.m. Central Sunday, Blue Origin pushed the New Shepard system test launch time back several times because of weather conditions. The livestream started at approximately 11:28 a.m. Central for the newly scheduled time of 11:42 a.m. Central, but there were some additional delays postponing the flight even further. At 12:06 p.m. Central, Blue Origin finally launched the New Shepard from the company’s West Texas launch site.
At approximately 250,000 feet, the crew capsule separated from the booster rocket, which reached a max velocity of 2,000 m.p.h. From there, the rocket came back down to the surface with a safe touchdown seven minutes after launch while the capsule continued to climb and reach the altitude of 347,485 feet. The capsule then safely landed a few minutes later after deploying its parachutes, making the total test launch a little more than 10 minutes to complete.
The New Shepard system is a program to allow for humans to make suborbital trips. Customers will take a ride in the capsule up to the Karman line, or 100 kilometers (62 miles), where they can experience weightlessness and take a look at the Earth from way above. To make this a reality, the space company is lowering costs in multiple ways such as reusing rockets and having a minimal amount of crew — just 30 members — for each launch.
Blue Origin will look to have people in the New Shepard later in 2018. It’s orbital flight vehicle, New Glenn, will start testing in 2020. Bezos tweeted after the launch on Sunday, “Apogee of 351,000 feet (66 miles, 107 kilometers), and that’s the altitude we’ve been targeting for operations. One step closer.” The company motto is “gradatim ferociter,” which is Latin for “step by step,” and his company took another step with this launch.
There were no crew members on this test launch, but special lockers made by Blue Origin were on board. Each locker had a variety of experiments from different organizations that will tell if Wi-Fi can be transmitted to space and the effects of microgravity on water fleas.