This morning near Van Horn, Texas, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard rocket for an escape mission which turned out to be successful. Jeff Bezos’ big plan to bring tourists up to space is off to a good start.
While Jeff Bezos is still trying to figure out how he will give away some of his enormous fortune, Blue Origin pulled off another successful test flight of the sub-orbital New Shepard, a crew spacecraft on top of a rocket booster. Named after the first American who went to space, Alan Shepard, the rocket was launched for what was the ninth overall test flight. The goal of this new mission was to test a high altitude escape motor.
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The aerospace company pushed New Shepard to its limits to make sure passengers could make it out alive in case of an emergency with the rocket. During the test, the escape motor – which is located under the crew capsule – was ignited. This action caused the capsule to be propelled away from the booster, fast enough so no one would get hurt.
After being separated from the rocket, the spacecraft was pushed to an altitude of 74 miles, sustaining up to 10 Gs. Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s host for the launch and also Head of Astronaut Strategy and Sales, explained that this is “well within what humans can take, especially for such a short spurt of time.”
The Washington-based company is planning on offering touristic rides to space in a few years. The idea is to send passengers at the edge of space – around 62 miles above the ground – where they would experience floating in zero gravity for ten minutes or so.
How does it work? Before you could experience this weightlessness in space, you would have to board New Shepard’s passenger capsule, which sits on top of the rocket booster. Once you would reach the edge of space, the capsule would separate from the rocket, which would reignite its engine to land back on the ground. After a few minutes spent in space, the capsule with the lucky passengers would fall back to Earth using parachutes.
Although this mission was successful, you won’t go to space anytime soon. Blue Origin has yet to run more tests, including another escape test. For now, the test dummy Mannequin Skywalker is the only one to enjoy the ride. During today’s flight, it was surrounded by payloads for collecting data from NASA, universities, and companies, as well as some additional payloads made by Jeff Bezos’ employees. This is also known as the “fly my stuff” program.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Jeff Bezos mentioned that trying to get people to go to space is the most important thing he is working on at the moment.
Rumor has it Blue Origin will make space travel possible for $200,000. Virgin Galactic – Richard Branson’s company – has already sold more than 700 tickets, for $250,000 each, to tourists who will go to sub-orbital space. Elon Musk is making his BFR a reality. Boeing is working on its SLS. And so on. You get the idea, the billionaire space race has begun!