Blue Origin’s Successful Launch Of The New Shepard Rocket Was Highest Test Flight Yet

‘Mannequin Skywalker’ completed his second mission on board the New Shepard spacecraft.

Phelan M. EbenhackAP Images

The eighth flight test of the New Shepard spacecraft was a “spectacular” success. The rocket test, carried out yesterday (April 29), was the highest Blue Origin has performed so far, reaching an altitude of almost 66 miles — slightly higher than the altitude widely accepted as the boundary line for space, reports Space.com.

The private space company, founded by billionaire and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, launched the New Shepard 2.0 spacecraft from its West Texas testing facility at 1:06 p.m. EDT (17:06 GMT).

“Another spectacular test mission,” Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales for Blue Origin, said during a launch webcast.

“Everything looks nominal from here,” she added.

Blue Origin initially targeted a 9:45 a.m. EDT launch, Bezos announced last week on Twitter. However, the liftoff was delayed for several hours due to thunderstorms, notes Space.com.

According to Cornell, New Shepard was launched to a target altitude of 347,485 feet (105,913 meters), exceeding Blue Origin’s typical target of 62 miles (100 km).

“Today, we’re going to push the system a little bit harder,” she said during the webcast.

The test flight lasted about 10 minutes and 19 seconds, ending in the successful landing of the New Shepard rocket and capsule.

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This was the second spaceflight for the reusable rocket booster, which made a smooth vertical touchdown. Also tested for the second time, the spacecraft’s reusable capsule made it back to Earth a few minutes later, after deploying its parachutes. In case you missed yesterday’s live stream, you can watch the replay of the New Shepard test flight below.

During yesterday’s test flight, also known as Mission 8, the New Shepard spacecraft carried research payloads for NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and commercial customers, revealed a Blue Origin news release.

Just like in the previous flight test, carried out on December 12, Mannequin Skywalker was there to bring his contribution to science. The test dummy performed his second mission on board the New Shepard spacecraft, conducting yet another astronaut telemetry study.

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New Shepard 2.0 — named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, notes Spaceflight Now — is designed to fly human passengers to suborbital space. Blue Origin’s future space tourism flights are intended for six passengers at a time and plan to take people to space without orbiting Earth.

The new Crew Capsule 2.0, tested for the first time by Mannequin Skywalker last year, is fitted with six large windows to give paying passengers wide views of our planet from space.

The spacecraft is also built to carry commercial payloads and experiments, just as it did during yesterday’s test flight. The previous version of the New Shepard was retired two years ago, after having launched a series of missions in 2015 and 2016.