Jan 14, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin launches test of its suborbital space system

A Blue Origin rocket takes flight in into blue skies above Texas

The New Shepard takes flight. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin's New Shepard space system, designed to one day take paying customers to suborbital space, took flight from Texas on Thursday for an uncrewed test.

Why it matters: The company — founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos — is inching closer to launching its first customers.

Details: The launch marked the first test for an upgraded New Shepard capsule, equipped with temperature regulation, display panels and speakers with a microphone for future customers.

  • It was also the first flight for this particular New Shepard booster.
  • Blue Origin also flew "Mannequin Skywalker" — its flight test dummy — aboard the capsule to monitor the stresses future fliers might face.
  • The rocket landed back on Earth while the capsule came back to the ground under parachutes after reaching more than 350,000 feet in altitude.

The big picture: Blue Origin isn't the only company working to get a piece of the suborbital space tourism market.

  • Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is developing a space plane that will fly people to the edge of space and bring them back home.
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