Blue Origin Launches Sub-Orbital Flight


Private space startup Blue Origin launched its eighth test flight from Texas Sunday, boosting microgravity experiments and an instrumented dummy astronaut to an altitude of 66.5 miles, the company reported. The reusable New Shepard booster was making its second flight and landed successfully on a concrete pad near the launch point about eight minutes after it ignited.

Blue Origin is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the company plans to use the booster and the suborbital capsule it tested on Sunday to launch up to six tourists into space for a short arcing flight similar to that flown by the U.S.’s first astronaut, Alan Shephard, on May 5, 1961, at the dawn of the Mercury program. The booster’s BE-3 engine is fueled by liquid hydrogen and oxygen and generates about 110,000 pounds of thrust.

Sunday’s test reached an altitude of 351,000 feet or about 20,000 feet higher than had been previously attempted, according to news reports. According to data from the test dummy, dubbed Mannequin Skywalker by Blue Origin, humans aboard the capsule would have experienced four to five minutes of zero-g before re-entry and descent under parachutes. In addition to the dummy, the capsule also carried some components to be used on NASA’s Orion deep space vehicle and experiments designed to test the feasibility of delivering Wi-Fi to spacecraft. Blue Origin hasn’t said when it will begin launching tourists.