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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.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Axiom announces the crew for its first private ISS mission

Earth from space. Photo: NASA

An American entrepreneur, Canadian investor and Israeli investor, along with a former NASA astronaut, are set to make up the first fully private mission to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The flight — expected to launch in January 2022 — represents part of NASA's bid to create an economy in low-Earth orbit supported by private companies.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Axios AM Deep Dive: America’s murder surge

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides rose at the fastest rate in at least six decades last year. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by Future correspondent Bryan Walsh, looks at the state of gun crime.

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats target billionaires

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After failing to get a deal on other planned tax increases, key Senate Democrats are pivoting to a billionaires' income tax to pay for President Biden's social spending.

The big picture: No advanced economy has attempted anything similar on such a scale.