On Dec. 12, Blue Origin held a test flight for its New Shepard system, which reached for the skies with the new Crew Capsule 2.0.
This all went down at 11:59 a.m. ET or 8:59 a.m. PT at the company's West Texas launch site, and it was a big success.
New Shepard Flies Again
The flight known as Mission 7 or M7 lasted for 10 minutes and six seconds, and the New Shepard system and Crew Capsule 2.0 soared at a max ascent velocity of Mach 2.94, reaching a maximum altitude of approximately 99 kilometers or 62 miles above sea level — almost at a height where the fine line between the sky and outer space are, which is also known as the Kármán Line.
On their descent back to Earth, the capsule and booster made controlled landings, where the former floated down using a parachute at a speed of 1 mph.
News of the successful test flight didn't come out immediately, but Blue Origin eventually confirmed it and released relevant media, as well as its founder Jeff Bezos.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 13, 2017
This marks the seventh time that New Shepard flew.
According to Blue Origin, the capsule had a passenger, an instrumented test dummy known as "Mannequin Skywalker." Its purpose is to allow the company to ascertain the potential effects of the flight on human riders.
Aside from that, the capsule also had 12 payloads, one of which is from a Colorado middle school that sent not only artwork from its students but also an Arduino Nano circuit board.
Speaking of which, the capsule now has real windows that measure at 3.6 feet tall and 2.4 feet wide, the largest of its kind to date. In the past, tests of previous units had only painted windows. Eventually, Blue Origin aims to accommodate up to six passengers in the capsules.
New Shepard 3
The New Shepard system has been improved primarily for reusability, and Blue Origin plans on using its booster and capsules numerous times before retiring. Comparatively, the previous version of the New Shepard flew five times before it was put away.
Now the company also intends to accommodate consumers for commercial flights in the future, and it could begin operations as early as 2018. With this successful test flight, there's a good chance for it to happen.