Blue Origin, the private spaceflight company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, successfully conducted its eighth test flight of the New Shepard passenger spacecraft on Sunday.
The mission, which blasted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site, was an all-around success. The crew capsule hit an apogee of 351,000 feet (or about 66 miles), Blue Origin’s target altitude, carrying a dummy astronaut named Mannequin Skywalker as well as research payloads for the likes of NASA, The German Aerospace Center (DLR) and other commercial customers.
The rocket booster touched down gracefully and without incident. The crew capsule uses a series of parachutes to slow itself down during descent and relies upon a retro thrust system to decelerate to around “1 or 2 mph” at landing although in the live video, it doesn’t really look like the “beautiful and soft” landing the narrator describes.
The total mission time from liftoff to landing was just over 10 minutes according to Space.com.
Unlike SpaceX, Blue Origin aims to be a space tourism company. Its New Shepard 2.0 capsule, which completed its first test flight last December, is equipped to haul six passengers to the edge of space. Blue Origin could send humans to the edge of space as early as later this year although pricing for a ticket hasn’t yet been revealed (hint: it won’t be cheap).