And that’s the hat-trick. On Saturday, private space firm Blue Origin launched its un-crewed New Shepard rocket and capsule into space and brought it safely back to Earth – the third time for this particular vehicle. The feat is a precursor to reducing the cost of spaceflight with reusable rockets.
Until recently Blue Origin, owned by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, operated mostly in secret, but with successful launches under its belt the company is starting to open up. The previous two New Shepard launches were only revealed after the fact but, on Friday, Bezos tweeted his firm was preparing for take-off. “Working to fly again tomorrow. Same vehicle. Third time.”
A video released this morning (above) shows New Shepard blasting off from Blue Origin’s private launch site in West Texas and reaching an altitude of 103 kilometres – just over the conventionally defined boundary of space.
Shortly after, the empty crew capsule separated from the booster and returned to the ground, safely slowed by parachutes.
Eventually Blue Origin plans to fly paying customers: space tourists wanting to view Earth from above and researchers interested in studying microgravity. On this flight, the New Shepard capsule carried two experiments to demonstrate its potential – both were designed to study how rocks and dust act in microgravity, which could be useful for future asteroid mining efforts.