Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, successfully launched its eighth rocket test flight from West Texas on Sunday.
The New Shepherd spacecraft launched from Van Horn, Texas just after 1.00pm Eastern and included the company’s second round of commercial payloads to be delivered into outerspace, from a range of customers.
While the New Shepherd capsule is designed to carry up to six ‘space tourists,’ it was unmanned for this flight, according to CBS News.
A wide range of customers purchased cargo space on the rocket, sending equipment into the great unknown to carry out ‘in-space science and technology demonstrations,’ Blue Origin said on Friday.
‘Mannequin Skywalker,’ a dummy astronaut was also included in the trip to the edge of space.
Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, successfully launched its eighth rocket test flight from West Texas on Sunday
The New Shepard capsule successfully detached from its booster, as planned, at an altitude of about 47 miles, and went on by itself to reach a height of 351,000 feet, or about 66.5 miles.
That height is about 20,000 feet higher than the normally targeted altitude, as Blue Origin strives to ‘expand the envelope’ and gather additional flight data.
In the booster’s second flight, it returned to earth tail first, reignited the BE-3 engine and successfully deployed its four landing legs.
The New Shepard Rocket launching on its eighth overall test flight near Van Horn, Texas
It then came to a landing on a concrete platform near the launch site.
All of this took about eight minutes from the time of launch.
The New Shephard capsule, itself, returned to earth after its second flight with the help of three large parachutes.
It’s rocket-enabled landing occurred about 11 minutes after takeoff.
The event marked the seventh successful booster flight in a row for Blue Origin, and eighth New Shepherd flight, in total.
The reusable New Shepard rocket and spacecraft is intended to carry up to six space tourists, researchers and/or experiments on brief suborbital flights, the company has said.
Blue Origin will presumably start test flights to move toward that goal later this year, but no target dates have been made publicly known at this time.
Blue Origin launches its first test flight of 2018 on Sunday from Van Horn, Texas
Attendees sit inside the high fidelity crew capsule mock up of the Blue Origin LLC New Shepard system during the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 5, 2017
This still image taken from a Blue Origin video shows the Crew Capsule on April 29, as the New Shepard Rocket prepares for lift off on its eighth overall test flight from near Van Horn, Texas
With this successful launch, the spacecraft carried items into space that surely paid a handsome price for the trip.
‘These payloads represent a range of users, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center to a small commercial communications firm, as well as our first European customers, funded by the German national space agency, DLR,’ Blue Origin said.
Items on board and headed for space included NASA’s Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 (SFEM-2) and the Schmitt Space Communicator (SC-1x).
Blue Origin had this to say about those two products:
‘NASA’s Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2, or SFEM-2, was designed to characterize payload test environments in support of the NASA Flight Opportunities program and other payload initiatives. The sensor suite collects cabin environmental data (CO2, pressure, acceleration, acoustics) and also tests components for future flights on NASA’s Orion capsule.
‘The Schmitt Space Communicator, named after Solstar advisor and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, is a technology demo to test the concept of providing commercial Wi-Fi access to in-space users. This flight test is being conducted with support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.’
The items included that were sent into space with funding from DLR focused on the effects of microgravity and the ‘interaction of light on solid particles suspended in a gas.’
Those items were dubbed ‘Daphnia,’ ‘EQUIPAGE,’ and ‘EUPHORIE.’
The flight on Sunday was the company’s first test flight since December 12.
Bezos speaks at the unveiling of the Blue Origin New Shepard system during the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 5, 2017