Blue Origin, a space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, launched a successful Shepard test flight from their Texas site on Tuesday, sending a crew capsule briefly into space and successfully recovering it with a parachute descent.
Shepard Test Flight
The Shepard test flight yesterday was a massive success. The rocket’s booster returned to the launch site by restarting a hydrogen-fueled engine to slow itself down, deploying legs and landing gently on a landing pad at the Blue Origin base.
The launch was the first of its kind using an upgraded booster, and the capsule was outfitted with large windows that will provide an excellent view for space tourists. The Shepard test flight was kept secret until 11 p.m EST, well after the successful launch and landing.
After the booster’s engine shut down, the crew capsule was released, climbing to over 322000 feet (61 miles) before making its descent back towards Earth. By the end of the descent, the deployed parachutes had slowed the capsule to a speed of less than one mile per hour, allowing for a picture-perfect landing.
The Shepard test flight carried a crash test dummy on the flight — the first passenger in what Blue Origin hopes will becoming a thriving space tourism industry. This launch is the company’s seventh flight overall, and the sixth success in a row. As testing continues, we’ll likely soon see the company’s efforts pay off.
Blue Origin’s goal with the reusable New Shepard rocket is to carry up to six space tourists and researchers on brief flights about 62 miles off the Earth’s surface. This altitude is considered the generally recognized “boundary” of space.
Space tourists lucky enough to launch with Blue Origin will experience four to five minutes of weightlessness as the capsule arcs back towards the earth. It’s likely to be an expensive experience, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to escape the earth’s atmosphere and enjoy a few moments as an amateur astronaut. The panoramic view through the capsule’s large windows will also make for an unforgettable experience
As the capsule plunges back towards the lower atmosphere, passengers will experience the opposite end of the weight spectrum, dealing with five times the gravity as they approach sea level and before the parachute deploys for a landing.
There’s still a good amount of testing that needs to be done before the Shepard test flight turns into a commercially available experience. However, Blue Origin aims to be offering space tourists this unforgettable ride within a couple of years. After 6 successful launches, it’s looking more and more likely that Blue Origin could beat out competitors when it comes to offering the average joe the ability to escape our atmosphere. This successful Shepard test flight is just another achievement for Blue Origin and another step forward towards making space travel accessible to more and more people.
There’s no word yet on how much this space expedition will cost, but we anticipate it will be pretty expensive. If you’re looking for to book a suborbital launch, it may be time to start saving.