Bezos’ Blue Origin Launches its First Space Mission of 2018


U.S. private aerospace company, Blue Origin (owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) launched the suborbital New Shepard rocket and space capsule. from Blue Origin’s West Texas test site. 

The mission is company’s first test flight of the year and second flight of the New Shepard 2.0 spacecraft. New Shepard is a reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing space vehicle, consisting of a pressurized capsule atop a booster.

During the flight, the New Shepard booster-capsule combo reached a maximum altitude of nearly 66 miles, higher than the 62-mile (100 km) altitude recognized as the boundary between Earth in space. Each component came back down to Earth safely, the rocket landed vertically on a designated pad and the capsule glided down softly under parachutes.

This mission featured a few science payloads and one (inanimate) passenger, an instrument-laden dummy dubbed Mannequin Skywalker, which will gather data on astronaut telemetry and some scientific studies. These payloads represent varied users, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center to a small commercial communications firm, as well as the company’s first European customers, funded by the German national space agency, DLR.

The company is developing New Shepard to fly customers and scientific experiments on brief missions to suborbital space. It also developing an orbital rocket called New Glenn that could directly compete with SpaceX for commercial launch contracts which is scheduled to make its launch debut in 2020. 

For the New Shepard system, mission marked the eighth suborbital spaceflight. Except the first one, where the booster crashed during its landing attempt (took place in April 2015), the rocket and capsule have aced their landings on all of these flights. New Shepard 2.0 space capsule is designed to fly up to 6 passengers on suborbital space flights for science and tourism and commercial payloads. The capsule features giant windows to give future passengers a stunning view of their launch into space.

Blue Origin tweeted that dummy astronaut, affectionately nicknamed “Mannequin Skywalker” was on board New Shepard for his 2nd mission. “He’s a little sensitive about being called a ‘dummy’, as he will be conducting astronaut telemetry and science studies – a very important job!”

Blue Origin’s long-term vision helps to get millions of people living and working in space and they want to make this goal economically feasible. Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and CEO, is thinking along the same lines.