Another step toward flying space tourists to the edge of the room, Jeff Bezo's spacecraft Blue Origin flew his New Shepard suborbital booster Thursday with a package of micro-gravity research experiments.
The single-step rocket took off from the Blue Origins privately run launch site north of Van Horn, Texas, at 09:35 EDT (8:35 pm CDT; 1335 GMT).
Named for Mercury Astronaut Alan Shepard, climbing the rocket in a clear sky powered by a hydrogen-powered BE-3 main engine, accelerating the vehicle to a speed of more than 2 200 km / h in less than two and a half minutes .
After completing New Shepard's main engine, a pressurized crew capsule on top of the rocket, the vehicles separated the coast to a maximum height of more than 346,000 feet, or about 105.5 kilometers, according to preliminary flight data.
A charge of 38 microgravity research loads, including ninety sponsored by NASA, was stowed on the capsule as it experienced in three to four minutes of weightlessness as the suborbal spacecraft spread through the apogee or the highlight of its orbit and began to fall back to earth.
The new Shepard booster distributed air brakes before it reignited its BE-3 gas-throttle engine to slow down for vertical descent on four landing legs about 3km from the launch site at Blue Origins West Texas West.
Less than three minutes later landed the capsule using three parachutes and retro rockets to complete Blue Origins 11th suborbital flight since April 2015.
Blue Origin has flown three versions of its reusable New Shepard rocket. The first rocket was lost in a crash on landing in 2015, and the other unit flew five times before retirement. A third New Shepard vehicle, which flew on Thursday, has completed five successful missions.
Blue Origin delivered a fourth New Shepard propulsion module to the West Texas test site late last year from the company's factory in Kent, Washington. Officials said the fourth iteration to New Shepard is the rocket that will carry people.
Blue Origin has not published when the latest New Shepard vehicle will debut, or which flight will be the first, includes human passengers.
Ariane Cornell, Blue Origins astronaut strategy and sales manager, said Thursday's launch and landing – a mission designated New Shepard 11 or NS-11 – is moving the company "one step closer" to flying human passengers.
"Over the next few months, towards the end of this year, we will be flying people on top of this rocket," says Cornell, who hosted the Blue Origins live webcast of Thursday's flight.
The Crew Launched by New Shepard Booster will have six seats, each with its own window to give passengers expansive views during the flight.
New Shepard is a step for Blue Origins greater ambition, which includes the development of a heavy-duty orbital-clas rocket called New Glenn. of the New Glenn rocket from Cape Canaveral is planned in 2021.
Blue Origins main competitor in the commercial suborbital spaceflight market is Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson
Virgin Galactic's suborbital rocket aircraft, known as SpaceShipTwo , has completed two flights over a height of 50 kilometers (80 kilometers), both with people on board.
Federal Aviation Administration has awarded commercial astronauts to Ri ck Sturckow, Mark Stucky, Dave Mackay, Mike Masucci and Beth Moses, the five Virgin Galactic employees who flew on the first two SpaceShipTwo aircraft to the edge of the room. As the US Air Force and NASA, the FAA allocates astronauts wings to people flying over a height of 50 miles.
The SpaceShipTwo vehicle is lost from a carrier beam high in the atmosphere and burns a rocket engine to climb to its peak height. On commercial aerospace flights, Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo expects to reach at least 50 miles, equivalent to the height achieved on the craft's last two suborbital flights in December and February.
Blue Origin says its New Shepard vehicle, which uses a very different flight profile, is designed to fly over the 62-kilometer Kármán line, the internationally renowned border of space.
While Virgin Galactic has a list of hundreds of wild space tourists who have paid deposits for the $ 250,000 ticket to ride on SpaceShipTwo. Blue Origin hasn't announced a fare yet.