Blue Origin took one step closer to making space tourism a reality with the successful eighth test flight of the New Shepard rocket and capsule.
With the flawless New Shepard test flight, what will come next for Blue Origin and the space tourism industry?
World's Richest Man Wants To Send People To Space
A few days before the New Shepard test flight, the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos, revealed that launch preparations for the spacecraft were underway. Bezos, who is the CEO of Amazon, is the founder of Blue Origin.
Launch preparations are underway for New Shepard’s 8th test flight, as we continue our progress toward human spaceflight. Currently targeting Sunday 4/29 with launch window opening up at 830am CDT. Livestream info to come. @BlueOrigin #GradatimFerociter pic.twitter.com/zAYpAGWB8C — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 27, 2018
The launch, which was scheduled on April 29 at 8:30 a.m. Central Time, was to test the safety of New Shepard not just in sending people to space, but also in bringing them back to Earth with a safe landing.
There were several hours of delays, with thunderstorms pushing back the launch time plus countdown stoppages for last-minute checks. However, Blue Origin will not be denied, and it was able to successfully carry out a flawless test flight.
The New Shepard spacecraft was designed to carry up to six people into space to altitudes above 62 miles, which is the widely accepted space threshold. The New Shepard capsule separated from the rocket at a height of 47 miles, as planned, and soared to a maximum height of 351,000 feet, or 66.5 miles.
Apogee of 351,000 feet (66 miles, 107 kilometers), and that’s the altitude we’ve been targeting for operations. One step closer. #GradatimFerociter @BlueOrigin — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 29, 2018
The booster rocket, on its second test flight, dropped tail first toward the launch site after separating from the capsule, re-igniting its engine and releasing four landing legs to safely get back on Earth. The capsule, meanwhile, had a more leisurely descent, assisted by three big parachutes and rockets for its touchdown.
What's Next For Blue Origin?
For Blue Origin, the test flight is more than just seeing if the New Shepard rocket and capsule will function properly for takeoff and landing. Aboard the capsule was a dummy affectionately named Mannequin Skywalker, which is equipped with instruments to measure the effects of the flight for space tourists.
Also hitching a ride on the New Shepard spacecraft were a sensor suite for data collection on the pressure, noise, and other environmental data in the passenger capsule, the Schmitt Space Communicator that will provide WiFi to customers, and other various scientific experiments.
Blue Origin will launch more tests over the next several months. If everything goes according to plan, the company may already start sending people up to space on New Shepard before the year ends, to mark the official start of the burgeoning space tourism industry.