Blue Origin has successfully completed a test launch and landing of its reuseable New Shepard rocket with an advanced capsule design, bringing the outfit one step closer to eventually sending up paying passengers.
The test flight, codenamed NS-15 as it’s the 15th to date, was conducted at 1651 UTC (1151 CDT) at a Blue Origin site near Van Horn, Texas, on Wednesday. Two Blue Origin employees climbed up the launch tower, entered the capsule, and were strapped into their seats, and followed final procedures to prepare for a fake take off. Just before the New Shepard was due to fly, however, they left the capsule, with just Mannequin Skywalker, the instrument-stuffed dummy Blue Origin uses, to make the short journey.
The flight was the first test of the new capsule design that’ll be more comfortable for people paying six-figure sums to go into space. New acoustic and temperature controls were tested, as well an improved radio and control systems. NASA wants to see all is right before putting humans on it.
You can watch the whole thing again here. Skip to 1:53:39 to get to the countdown.
NS-15 was completed in just over ten minutes, according to the mission’s broadcast. First, the capsule separated from the booster at about three minutes into the flight. After the booster reached its highest point – about 350,000 feet or 106.7 kilometres – it slowed down and reentered the atmosphere.
It was guided back onto is landing pad and performed a rocket burn to slow its speed down to five miles per hour at seven minutes into the flight for a soft landing. The capsule touched down around three minutes later.