Blue Origin launched its 10th flight of the New Shepard rocket on Wednesday, in a mission which sent eight NASA research and development experiments into space.
Lifting off from the company’s facility in the desert of West Texas, the New Shepard rocket launched the capsule on top past an altitude of 350,000 feet – more than 100 kilometers up.
Blue Origin, which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos founded nearly two decades ago, is developing the New Shepard rocket system for the company’s space tourism business. Six passengers would ride past the edge of space, where they would spend about 10 minutes floating in zero gravity before returning back to Earth. The capsule features massive windows, providing expansive views of the Earth once in space.
NASA pays commercial rocket companies under the agency’s Flight Opportunities program to test and demonstrate technologies. Blue Origin has eight payloads on board for NASA programs and academic institutions. The payloads are a variety of experiments, from gathering data on vibration experience during spaceflight to testing a possible solution for cooling electronics on a spacecraft.
Named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space, the New Shepard system is reused by Blue Origin. Reusability is a key part of Blue Origin’s plan to turn space tourism into a business. Similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket system, New Shepard’s booster – the bottom and largest section of the rocket – launches straight up and then returns straight down to land.
This was the fourth test flight for this individual rocket booster, which is the third booster Blue Origin has built. The company said on Twitter that it has “two rockets in the barn in West Texas,” with the latest addition planned to begin “flying humans to space next year.”