Blue Origin successfully launched the New Shepard equipped with the Crew Capsule 2.0 into the sky, near the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space.
The capsule wasn't empty, though. Aside from educational and research payloads, it had a passenger: an instrumented test dummy named "Mannequin Skywalker."
Now the private aerospace manufacturer has uploaded an 11-minute clip that shows the inanimate rider's flight toward space and descent back to Earth, and it even teased the opening of its rocket factory on Twitter to boot.
Mannequin Skywalker Reaches The Skies
The test flight took place at 11:59 ET or 8:59 PT on Dec. 12, Tuesday, the Blue Origin's West Texas launch site, where the New Shepard and Crew Capsule 2.0 reached about 99 kilometers or 62 miles above sea level before they returned to Earth.
Both the booster and capsule made controlled landings, the latter of which descended with a parachute at a speed of 1 mph.
What makes the capsule this time around special is that it's fitted with real windows — as opposed to painted-on windows on previous versions — that measure at 2.4 feet wide and 3.6 feet tall, making them the largest to make it into space. Those are huge for a reason because Blue Origin intends to offer commercial flights in the foreseeable future in which the capsule is designed to accommodate up to six passengers.
As for where Mannequin Skywalker comes in, the test dummy was given a free ride to space and back so that the company determine the effects of such flights on real people.
The video clip doesn't really show much of how things would be like in zero gravity aboard the capsule since Mannequin Skywalker is securely strapped in, but it does give a glimpse of the view from above.
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos does say that future passengers will experience the "zero gee part" of the trip.
Full video of Mannequin Skywalker’s ride to space. Unlike him, you’ll be able to get out of your seat during the zero gee part of the flight. And ignore the pinging sound – it’s just from one of the experiments on this flight. #NewShepard @blueorigin https://t.co/dJ5VEeaWb6 pic.twitter.com/qGQC1vfW7D
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 15, 2017
Rocket Factory Opening
As mentioned earlier, Blue Origin also teased a photo of the opening of its rocket factory in Florida's Space Coast. In the picture, there's a Blue Origin hard hat, a rocket shuttle, and other ornaments.
The moment you know you’ve officially moved into the rocket factory. #NewGlenn pic.twitter.com/nHRn0m9dSd — Blue Origin (@blueorigin) December 14, 2017
The New Glenn rockets are expected to be built in the factory that broke ground in June 2016, which measures at 750,000 square feet. On a side note, Bezos also tweeted a video of the company's landing pad bot called Blue2D2, which is just as well to go along with Mannequin Skywalker.
First use of our landing pad bot #Blue2D2. @blueorigin pic.twitter.com/Ht2P7yVwEs — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 15, 2017
Blue Origin plans to start its commercial space tourism business sometime in the near future, perhaps even as early as 2018, and the recent successful test flight of the New Shepard and Crew Capsule 2.0 is one step toward that goal.