Blue Origin test flight simulates space launch emergency

The latest view of Blue Origin’s Florida launch site – via L2

"It's an important test in our march towards flying humans into space, which hopefully will be soon", Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, during a company webcast of the test. One such payload including an experiment funded both privately and by NASA, called Solstar, which tested WiFi capabilities in space. The rocket and crew capsule system is aimed at the suborbital tourism market, allowing paying customers to enjoy into a few minutes of zero-G flight prior to a parachute-assisted landing.

The test required sending the capsule up to between 390,000 and 400,000 feet (roughly 120 kilometers) and then waiting for about 20 seconds for the booster to clear, ensuring that its exhaust wouldn't interfere with the capsule test.

This launch was the ninth for the New Shepard program, and the third for this particular combination of crew capsule and propulsion module.

The booster and spacecraft blasted off from the company's launch site in West Texas shortly after 11 a.m.

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New Shepard's reusable booster comes in for a landing.

In a brief statement announcing Wednesday's flight, Blue Origin offered no further details on the objectives or the technical parameters for the planned high-altitude escape motor test.

Blue Origin conducted a successful test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle July 18 that demonstrated its crew capsule escape system.

It's part of a safety system meant to save lives once space tourists and others climb aboard for suborbital hops. "Mannequin had a smooth, smooth landing". Once it reached the threshold of space, the capsule fired its motors, shooting it away from the booster in a maneuver the company said would "push the rocket to its limits".

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This was the third trip to space for both this New Shepherd rocket booster and the crew capsule, both created to be reusable like SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsules. "At Blue Origin, we're all about safety", she said.

Blue Origin tested the motor at a lower altitude during a memorable flight back in October 2016, but the company's engineers wanted to make sure that the system would work as well at a higher altitude, where the atmosphere thins out to near-nothingness. "But we've got our eyes on the prize".

Blue Origin has completed a sprawling rocket factory near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build New Glenn rockets and is developing a launch pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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