Blue Origin successfully tests escape system in latest New Shepard launch

Blue Origin's New Shepard spaceship blasts off for a high-altitude escape system test.

Blue Origin, the aerospace company backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, completed a test Wednesday of a new motor during a blastoff from its launchpad in west Texas.

These latest tests were also created to push the booster to its limit, which led to Blue Origin noting the potential they could lose the booster, not least during the focused testing on the escape system, centered around a solid motor firing for two seconds to fly the capsule free of a failing booster.

He's named his rockets after NASA's original Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

Blue Origin used this launch to test an abort of the capsule in space, should anything go wrong during a real crewed flight. It should start at 8 a.m. PT.

The test flight also carried 12 payloads and even a passenger - specifically an instrumented dummy brilliantly named "Mannequin Skywalker". Although some reports suggest the price of a ticket could be in the $200,000-to-$300,000 range, Blue Origin says no price has yet been set and no reservations are yet being taken.

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That second flight saw the New Shepard booster lofting its Crew Module to an altitude of 329,839 feet before returning under powered control to an upright landing - marking the first time a suborbital rocket successfully landed after a straight-up/straight-down flight.

Experiments hitching a ride on the test flight Wednesday include a privately-developed in-cabin WiFi transmitter, and a package of NASA sensors to measure cabin pressure, temperature, carbon dioxide levels, acoustic conditions, and acceleration inside the crew capsule.

"We'll be doing a high altitude escape motor test - pushing the rocket to its limits", noted Blue Origin ahead of the test.

The motor performed as expected, giving the capsule an extra boost and setting an altitude record of 118.8 kilometers before landing by parachute 11 minutes after liftoff.

If all goes well, the demonstration may well see Blue Origin closer to flying people on brief trips to space. "We are really curious how microgravity affects the structure and properties of things, and we hope this flight will help us understand the science behind it", said James Yenbamroong, chief executive and founder of mu Space, in a preflight statement. "It's coming", she said. Meanwhile, today's mission 9 included, for the first time ever, employee cargo from the firm's "Fly My Stuff" program.

Blue Origin is developing a much bigger rocket, called New Glenn, as an orbital launcher.

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