The mission on Sunday marked the company’s first test flight of the year and second flight of the New Shepard 2.0 spacecraft, Xinhua news agency reported. Perched atop a reusable booster powered by a single hydrogen-fueled BE- 3 engine, the New Shepard spacecraft blasted off from the company’s Van Horn, Texas, test facility at 1:06 p.m. EDT (GMT-4).
Blue Origin launched New Shepard to a target altitude of about 107 km, slightly higher than the company’s typical target of about 100 km, the altitude widely accepted as the boundary line for space.
“Apogee of 351,000 feet (66 miles, 107 km), and that’s the altitude we’ve been targeting for operations. One step closer,” billionaire Bezos tweeted.
Another spectacular test mission,” Ariane Cornell of Blue Origin said during a launch webcast. “Today, we’re going to push the system a little bit harder.”
New Shepard is a reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing space vehicle, consisting of a pressurized capsule atop a booster.
Several minutes after lift-off, the booster made a successful vertical landing. The capsule fell back to Earth a few minutes later, descending on parachutes and cushioning its own landing with retrorockets.
“Touchdown of the New Shepard Booster and Crew Capsule! Congrats to Team Blue and our payload customers on board today!” the company tweeted.
This is Blue Origin’s eight spaceflight since the company began flight testing New Shepard vehicles. The first New Shepard 2.0 launched in December 2017, with six other flights launching on a predecessor New Shepard, which Blue Origin has since retired.
“Earth is the best planet in our solar system. We go to space to save the Earth,” Bezos tweeted on Earth Day.
The company is working on a larger rocket, ‘New Glenn’ that could directly compete with SpaceX for commercial launch contracts, but it isn’t expected to be ready until 2020.