Oct 13, 2020 - Science

Blue Origin launches first test flight of 2020

The Blue Origin New Shepard booster coming in for a landing

The New Shepard booster coming in for a landing. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin launched an uncrewed test on Tuesday of the company's New Shepard space system designed to take paying tourists to the edge of space.

Why it matters: This suborbital New Shepard launch is the first of the year for the Jeff Bezos-owned company.

The state of play: New Shepard took flight at 9:36 a.m. ET Tuesday from Blue Origin's West Texas facility carrying about a dozen experiments for the company's customers.

  • One of those experiments was testing out technology that could one day be used to sample asteroids in deep space.
  • “While current asteroid sample return missions visit single asteroids and collect samples from one or two locations on their surface, a future mission carrying dozens of micro-sampler landers like these could return samples from various locations on numerous asteroids,” Alex Parker, a planetary astronomer involved in the experiment, said in a statement.

Between the lines: Another experiment was a Blue Origin landing sensor the company hopes could be used for future missions to the Moon.

  • The company is leading a team competing to build a human-rated lander for NASA's Artemis program.
  • "Using New Shepard to simulate landing on the Moon is an exciting precursor to what the Artemis program will bring to America," Bob Smith, Blue Origin's CEO, said in a statement.

The big picture: Blue Origin isn't the only company aiming to send customers to suborbital space in the near future. Virgin Galactic is also planning to fly private citizens aboard its spaceplane.

Go deeper: Watch a replay of the launch webcast

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