The undeclared race between Blue Origin and SpaceX rages on, as Jeff Bezos is trying to beat Elon Musk to the punch and be the first one to send people into space.
Since Blue Origin is striving to reach this goal by the end of the year, the commercial space company is performing yet another unmanned test flight of its New Shepard rocket, Bezos announced yesterday on Twitter.
The Amazon CEO plans to launch and land the New Shepard rocket on Sunday, April 29. The spacecraft, a combination of rocket and space capsule, is scheduled to lift off from Blue Origin’s West Texas testing facility as early as 8:30 a.m. Central Daylight Time.
This will be the eighth test flight for the New Shepard spacecraft and the space company’s first rocket launch in 2018. The previous test flight took place in December and featured a very special guest, as the Inquisitr reported at the time.
In the December 2017 test flight, New Shepard flew to the edge of space carrying onboard a test dummy dubbed Mannequin Skywalker, which got a ride in the spacecraft’s brand new Crew Capsule 2.0.
Although no test dummies have been rumored to make an appearance at the test flight tomorrow, the billionaire entrepreneur did mention that the rocket launch will be livestreamed.
Launch preparations are underway for New Shepard’s 8th test flight, as we continue our progress toward human spaceflight. Currently targeting Sunday 4/29 with launch window opening up at 830am CDT. Livestream info to come. @BlueOrigin #GradatimFerociter pic.twitter.com/zAYpAGWB8C— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 27, 2018
Bezos’ end goal for the New Shepard rocket is to eventually fly passengers and scientific experiments to suborbital space and back, Space.com reports.
Although Blue Origin is far from directly competing with SpaceX — which has already performed dozens of government and commercial satellite launches, CNET notes — both companies are focusing on recyclable rockets. New Shepard makes no exception and has both a reusable capsule and a rocket booster. While the capsule lands by deploying a parachute, the booster uses engine firings to slow its descent and perform a vertical touchdown back to Earth, just like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
Blue Origin is also working on a heavy-lift orbital rocket which the company named “New Glenn” in honor of astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit our planet. New Glenn is expected to give SpaceX a run for its money and compete with Musk’s space company for commercial launch contracts, but the rocket is still two years from being ready.