SpaceX currently leads the private space sector with an iron fist, especially after having completed its first manned mission last year. However, Jeff Bezos is not the kind of guy to just sit and accept a loss, and thus, his company Blue Origin has been working day and night to repeat the feat. Now, it looks like that day may be drawing nearer.
The company launched the 15th uncrewed test flight of its reusable suborbital vehicle New Shepard today, blasting off from a West Texas launchpad at 12:50 a.m. EDT.
The capsule, as well as the rocket (both of which are re-usable) landed 10 minutes after the launch. The capsule reached an altitude of 347,574 feet (105,941 meters) above ground level during the test, according to the company.
The mission, which saw company employees board the spacecraft before take off to do all the pre flight work, and then board it after landing to do all the post, is Blue Origin’s version of SpaceX’s Demo missions. Now, if the Jeff Bezos led company follows the same time table as its competitors, we might soon see actual astronauts board a Jeff Bezos financed rocket.
That is not all. Apart from the pre and post flight procedures, Blue Origin also carried a payload during this flight, which included an instrument-laden dummy known as Mannequin Skywalker and more than 25,000 postcards submitted by students to the company’s Club for the Future. Mannequin Skywalker will be donated to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, along with a seat in the flight.
The NS-4 used during this mission featured additions like temperature and acoustic control, display panels and a push-to-talk communication system. This is the first time that these features have been added to a space-craft.
This is a massive feat for the almost infant space company. While SpaceX has years of experience when it comes to its reusable rocket-Falcon 9, the New Shephard (given the code name NS-4 or RS5 First Step) is very new in comparison. To have achieved this much progress in such a short amount of time speaks volumes about the Blue Origin’s potential, even though the way was already paved by SpaceX.