A Blue Origin New Shepard rocket ascends in the skies above West Texas. Image: Blue Origin

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, conducted a successful launch and landing of its New Shepard rocket and crew capsule on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The launch and landing bring the company closer to flying humans to suborbital space, which it hopes to begin by the end of 2019. In addition to space tourism, the company is also vying with Elon Musk's SpaceX — as well as a host of other private sector firms — to win contracts to carry cargo payloads to space.

Details: The New Shepard rocket carried a crew capsule with 8 NASA science experiments to a maximum height of 350,775 feet over Blue Origin's West Texas launch site. This is just past the typically recognized boundary between where the Earth's atmosphere ends and space begins.

  • At this altitude, the crew capsule experienced a microgravity environment — useful to some of the scientific payloads aboard, including one to measure the cooling of closely packed electronics during spaceflight.
  • Both the rocket and the capsule successfully returned to Earth for landings. The recovery of the rocket and the capsule is significant, since reusing rockets is a major way for companies like Blue Origin to lower the cost of access to space.
  • This was the 4th time this particular New Shepard rocket has been to space and back.

Between the lines: Notably, the test flight was broadcast live online. Historically, the company has been known for its secrecy — and, for a time, it did not announce test flights in advance. The livestream put it in line with its rivals, chiefly SpaceX.

Go deeper: The new global race to space

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin:

Trump prepares to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court replacement

Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame University via Reuters

President Trump is preparing to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a favorite of both the social conservative base and Republican elected officials, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Barrett would push the already conservative court further and harder to the right, for decades to come, on the most important issues in American politics — from abortion to the limits of presidential power. If confirmed, she would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.