Sci-tech

Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft with 'Mannequin Skywalker' onboard

Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft with 'Mannequin Skywalker' onboard

"On Mission 9, were firing the crew capsule escape motor at the highest altitude ever".

The high-altitude escape motor test is created to simulate what would happen if there was a problem with the launch vehicle during ascent.

The reusable New Shepard booster is created to take off from a launch pad, climb to the internationally-recognized boundary of space at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), and land nearby with rocket thrust and aerobrakes.

The booster and capsule - both repeat fliers - landed successfully. The launch will also see the New Shepard rocket perform a high-altitude escape motor test to push the ship to its limit.

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While this flight was primarily meant to demonstrate the vehicle's escape system, the crew capsule carried eight research and technology demonstration payloads, similar to what the vehicle has done on previous suborbital test flights. There is speculation that Bezos himself, the world's richest person, will be among the first people to fly on New Shepard.

Blue Origin's billionaire owner, Jeff Bezos, has grand designs for moving people and commerce into space, and his efforts begin with Blue Origin's rockets.

Although Blue Origin is yet to provide details, it is understood the company has already purchased the first landing ship for returning New Glenn boosters.

Cornell didn't offer a timetable for crewed flights beyond "soon" during the webcast but said they could begin "after a couple more tests". Although some reports suggest the price of a ticket could be in the $200,000-to-$300,000 range, Blue Origin says no price has yet been set and no reservations are yet being taken. Unlike NASA's Mercury and Apollo spacecraft, which jettisoned their escape rockets before reaching orbit, Blue Origin's is built into the capsule.

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Other items aboard the flight include a NASA-funded vibration damping system to allow for more precise experiments in microgravity, an assortment of scientific, medical and textile materials from the Thai startup mu Space, and an allotment of mementos and other items provided by Blue Origin employees.

Blue Origin has completed a sprawling rocket factory near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build New Glenn rockets and is developing a launch pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

This launch was the ninth for the New Shepard program, and the third for this particular combination of crew capsule and propulsion module.

"It's coming", said Cornell, who's in charge of astronaut sales as well as launch commentary.

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