Blue Origin Is Launching the New Shepard Sub-Orbital Spacecraft

The fourth launch of the New Shepard vehicle

The fourth launch of the New Shepard vehicle

Blue Origin, the space travel company founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, appears to be preparing to resume test flights in West Texas.

The Blue Origin launch was the seventh flight of its New Shepard capsule and featured its next-generation booster rocket.

The uncrewed, straight-up, straight-down trip was conducted at Blue Origin's testing ground in West Texas.

Blue Origin is developing the reusable New Shepard rocket and spacecraft to carry up to six space tourists, researchers and/or experiments on brief sub-orbital flights above the discernible atmosphere more than 62 miles up, or 100 kilometers.

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In the 14 months since that abort-test flight, Blue Origin has been working on an upgraded version of the rocket-to improve its capacity for rapid, low-priced reusability-and the capsule in which six passengers will eventually ride to space inside.

The Shepard test flight yesterday was a massive success. The latest test launch took place on Tuesday, with a brand new rocket and an upgraded crew capsule that closer resembles the spacecraft that will launch passengers.

The October 2016 test closed out a run of four successful test flights in the year, with the latter testing its new pusher abort system that's created to safely separate the New Shepherd crew capsule from the New Shepard booster in the event of an anomaly during powered flight. It did not immediately release any data from the test dummy sensors. Before customers fly, however, Blue Origin plans to do a series of flights with test pilots on board. However, it continued to fly and then successfully landed, along with the crew capsule, which was the primary goal of the test.

While Elon Musk's SpaceX has its sights on the grand colonization of Mars, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin's ambitions are a bit more down to Earth, nearly literally.

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The prize for the booster's survival was a well-earned retirement from test operations and a tour of Blue Origin events around the United States. It even included a test dummy seated inside the cabin. The booster achieved Mach 2.94 on ascent & Mach 3.74 on descent.

In addition to its suborbital space program, Blue Origin is working on a next-generation BE-4 rocket engine and an orbital-class rocket called New Glenn. That suborbital mission marked the fifth successful launch and landing of the same individual New Shepard vehicle over a span of 11 months.

New Shepard is produced at Blue Origin's headquarters in Kent, but New Glenn will be built at a 750,000-square-foot facility that's nearing completion in Florida.

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