Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship hits new heights in escape test flight

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While this test was unmanned, the reusable rocket is created to deliver payloads - and potentially tourists - to sub-orbital space. Although it has not yet provided details, the company says it will fly "a high altitude escape motor test-pushing the rocket to its limits".

Blue Origin has provided only vague schedules about when human flights would begin, with company officials saying recently they anticipated starting to fly humans on test flights by the end of this year.

Overall, this was Blue Origin's ninth test flight of a New Shepherd rocket.

The New Shepard suborbital vehicle is scheduled to launch from Blue Origin's West Texas test site Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT; 0900 local Texas time).

During the 2016 test, ignition of the escape motor did not noticeably affect the reusable booster, which continued to fire before shutting down normally and falling back to Earth for a rocket-powered upright landing.

That second flight saw the New Shepard booster lofting its Crew Module to an altitude of 329,839 feet before returning under powered control to an upright landing - marking the first time a suborbital rocket successfully landed after a straight-up/straight-down flight.

The reusable New Shepard rocket settles to a picture-perfect touchdown.

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. Both 2.0 flights carried an instrument-laden dummy that Bezos dubbed "Mannequin Skywalker".

"Just another day at the office", said Cornell.

Blue Origin has not started selling tickets for seats on commercial New Shepard flights, but Reuters reported last week the flight opportunities are expected to sell for between $200,000 and $300,000.

"But we've got our eye on the prize", she added. The experiment will record vehicle conditions including cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, and acceleration.

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.

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.

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