The test, which
concluded with the rocket's landing and the capsule parachuting
safely to the desert floor, was an important step forward for
Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin by showing the passenger
capsule can escape from the rocket should something go wrong
Saving the capsule was the only goal of the test and the
survival of the Blue Shepherd rocket, which was making its fifth
flight, was a bonus for Blue Origin. Engineers had expected
searing exhaust from the capsule’s motor would tip over the
rocket, causing it to shut down and crash in a massive fireball
in the desert.
The New Shepard booster rocket lifted off at 11:37 a.m. EDT from
Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site, a live webcast showed.
About 45 seconds later, the capsule separated from the rocket
while a solid-rocket motor at the base of the capsule ignited.
The 1.8-second firing steered the capsule away from the booster
to test an emergency escape system.
After the capsule separated, the booster continued up into
space. Then it flew back, tail-first, toward Earth. As it neared
the ground, the booster's rocket motor fired, its landing legs
deployed and it touched down, 2 miles (3.2 km) from the launch
site, as it has done on its four previous flights.
"That's one hell of a booster," Bezos, the billionaire founder
of retail giant Amazon, said on Twitter.
Bezos has said by 2018 Blue Origin could start carrying paying
passengers to more than 62 miles (100 km) above Earth, high
enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the
planet against the blackness of space.
Blue Origin has not yet set a price for its space trips but a
competitor, Virgin Galactic, is selling tickets to fly on its
six-passenger, two-pilot SpaceShipTwo for $250,000.
Blue Origin is working on a larger orbital rocket, called New
Glenn, that will compete against Elon Musk’s SpaceX and other
companies for commercial satellite launches and human space
Unlike Musk, who wants to colonize Mars, Bezos’ vision is to
shift energy-intensive, heavy industry into orbit and preserve
Earth for human life.
Bezos said he has invested more than $500 million in Blue Origin
and that he would continue to finance it “for as long as
(Reporting By Irene Klotz; Editing by Andrew Hay and Bill Trott)
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