Jan 23, 2019

Blue Origin launches, lands New Shepard rocket while streaming live

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

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Federal court temporarily halts "Remain in Mexico" program

Migrant wearing a cap with U.S. flagin front of the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Photo: Jair Cabrera Torres/picture alliance via Getty Image

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's earlier injunction on Friday, temporarily stopping the Trump administration from enforcing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of migrants seeking asylum have been forced to wait out their U.S. immigration court cases across the border in Mexico under the policy. The Trump administration has long credited this program for the decline in border crossings following record highs last summer.

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Coronavirus updates: WHO raises global threat level to "very high"

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The World Health Organization raised its global risk assessment for the novel coronavirus to "very high" Friday, its highest risk level as countries struggle to contain it. Meanwhile, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow this morning tried to reassure the markets, which continued to correct amid growing fears of a U.S. recession.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected about 83,800 others in almost 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

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Bernie's plan to hike taxes on some startup employees

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced legislation that would tax nonqualified stock options at vesting, rather than at exercise, for employees making at least $130,000 per year.

The big picture: Select employees at private companies would be taxed on monies that they hadn't yet banked.