Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launched and landed an unmanned New Shepard rocket yet again, even after upping the stakes this time with the staged malfunction of a descent parachute.
The Kent, Wash.-based company also live-streamed the test mission for the first time. Liftoff was at 7:15 a.m. EDT June 19, and the smooth landing on a strip in Blue Origin’s testing range in West Texas came about 10 minutes later.
New Shepard — named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard — is designed as a reusable, suborbital launch vehicle whose main purpose will be to take “space tourists” for a thrilling, if pricey, once around a portion of the Earth’s outer atmosphere and back.
Customers will likely pay somewhere north of $200,000 for the spacey thrill ride, though prices haven’t been set as yet. Rival space tourism companies with launch vehicles in development include Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
Prior to its latest test, Blue Origin had successfully launched and landed New Shepard three times. This time, it intentionally rigged one of the spacecraft’s descent parachutes to fail.
As was hoped, backup systems including retro-rockets took over and delivered a controlled descent and stable vertical landing.
The Amazon founder and Blue Origin chief has said New Shepard will begin manned test missions next year and could begin commercial flights by 2018.
Meantime, testing will continue. The latest test launch and landing had been scheduled for June 17 until an O-ring in the New Shepard’s nitrogen-gas pressurization system began leaking and had to be replaced.
Photo: Blue Origin