Blue Origin Successfully Launches New Shepard Rocket for High-Altitude Emergency Abort Test

The flight test marks the company's ninth New Shepard rocket mission and the third using Blue Origin’s latest single-stage vehicle model.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin launched its ninth New Shepard rocket mission today at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT; 10 a.m. CDT), an hour later than first indicated, from the firm's launch site in Van Horn, Texas.

The uncrewed test flight is the third one using Blue Origin’s most recent model of the single-stage vehicle.

A mission webcast live!

The launch was webcast live on Blue Origin's website. The site also featured a payload manifest for the mission.

"An awesome feature of New Shepard is its modular interior design. While in the future it will feature six seats to fly people, we’re already flying science and education experiments for microgravity research," read the site.

Mission 9 will feature a crew capsule mounted on top of the rocket to carry the experiments as well as a dummy called “Mannequin Skywalker.” The dummy, flying on board a New Shepard ship for the third time, will allow scientists to test future passenger conditions. 

After launch, the reusable New Shepard booster will climb to an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), the internationally-approved boundary of space, and then proceed to land nearby. The launch will also see the New Shepard rocket perform a high-altitude escape motor test to push the ship to its limit. 

Human trips to space on the horizon

If all goes well, the demonstration may well see Blue Origin closer to flying people on brief trips to space. Last week, it was reported that the firm's space trips could cost at least $200,000.

However, Blue Origin rebuked the amount in a statement"We have not set ticket pricing and have had no serious discussions inside of Blue on the topic," said the statement.

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"We will begin selling tickets sometime after our first human flights and are focused on developing New Shepard. We have a flight test schedule and schedules of those types always have uncertainties and contingencies. Anyone predicting dates is guessing," read the statement.

In a previous interview, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith did announce hopes to launch humans to space before the end of the year but emphasized rigorous testing was necessary. The company just completed its eighth test mission last April.

The test flight featured a "second round of commercial payloads on board New Shepard for in-space science and technology demonstrations." Meanwhile, today's mission 9 included, for the first time ever, employee cargo from the firm's “Fly My Stuff” program.

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