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

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

As Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos watched, his Blue Origin space venture sent its reusable New Shepard spaceship to its highest-ever altitude during a successful test of a rocket motor that's meant to be used only in emergencies.

On Wednesday's flight, Blue Origin says it will push the New Shepard rocket to its limits with a high-altitude escape motor test.

The reusable New Shepard booster is created to take off from a launch pad, climb to the internationally-recognized boundary of space at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), and land nearby with rocket thrust and aerobrakes.

The escape rocket motor is built into the crew capsule to provide a backup plan in case something goes wrong with New Shepard's booster.

Along with the suborbital New Shepard rockets and spacecraft, Blue Origin also is developing a powerful new engine, the BE-4, to help boost satellites into orbit using much larger New Glenn rockets.

Blue Origin launched a New Shepard rocket to space earlier in April.

However, Blue Origin rebuked the amount in a statement.

Today's mission was created to test the high-altitude escape motor of New Shepard's crew capsule, said representatives of Blue Origin, which is run by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

This launch was the ninth for the New Shepard program, and the third for this particular combination of crew capsule and propulsion module.

Wednesday's passenger was Mannequin Skywalker, an instrumented dummy in a blue flight suit that's flown before, plus science experiments.

New Shepard's reusable booster comes in for a landing.

"Anything could have happened today, and this is the best possible outcome", launch commentator Ariane Cornell said. The company is already selling tickets for adventurous travelers who want to spend a short while in space, and you can stick your name on the list if you've got a spare $200,000 lying around. "At Blue Origin, we're all about safety", she said. The experiment will record vehicle conditions including cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, and acceleration.

One payload, called "Fly My Stuff", included personal items supplied by company employees.

With the production facility at Exploration Park all-but ready to start producing New Glenn hardware, work is also now taking place on the LC-11 and LC-36 pad facilities from which the rocket will be tested and launched from. The New Glenn will compete with United Launch Alliance's upcoming Vulcan rocket and with SpaceX boosters in the US launch market.

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