On Sunday afternoon, Jeff Bezos-founded Blue Origin launched an eighth suborbital test flight of their New Shepard rocket from Van Horn, Texas at 12:06 PM Central time.
The crew capsule part of the launch system reached 351,000 feet, 1,000 feet past their target reach. The vehicle used for this mission, known as Mission 8, was also flown on a previous mission. Not only was their vehicle was going for a second run, but their test dummy, “Mannequin Skywalker”, was strapped in for another ride.
“Mannequin Skywalker is ready for his 2nd mission on board New Shepard. He’s a little sensitive about being called a “dummy”, as he will be conducting astronaut telemetry and science studies – a very important job!” Tweeted Blue Origin before the test.
The popular questions seems to be “so what? It’s just another rocket company launching more rocket stuff into space.” The answer is quite simple, because this isn’t just another rocket company by just another billionaire launching more stuff off the ground.
This one is a bit different.
Blue Origin, owned by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, has a similar mission as SpaceX; They want smaller companies and entrepreneurs to be able to afford to send experiments and other things into space, all while reusing their spacecrafts.
Blue Origin’s vision steers toward moving large amounts of people into orbit, the moon, and beyond to work and live.
In an interview with Geekwire, Bezos was asked about who has the best approach when it comes to the new “space race” and their rocket reusability. His response is, in my opinion, spot on:
“Oftentimes, it’s very natural to think of business competition like a sporting event. In a sporting event, there actually is a winner and a loser… Great industries are usually built by not just one, or two or three companies, but usually by dozens of companies. There can be many winners, even hundreds and thousands of companies in a truly great industry. I think that’s what we are headed toward here. From my point of view, the more, the merrier. I want Virgin Galactic to succeed, I want SpaceX to succeed, I want United Launch Alliance to succeed, I want Arianespace to succeed, and of course I want Blue Origin to succeed. And I think they all can.”
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 29, 2018
The part that is so exciting is that they also want to be able to send us normal, non-astronaut folk up in the sky for suborbital experiences. In the same interview, Bezos states that in comparing his rocket company to Amazon, space tourism is like how they started with books. It’s the stepping stone to Blue Origin’s future.
That’s why there’s a need for so many tests.
The capsule is designed with 6 windows to carry 6 passengers into suborbital tourism flights where they will be able to view Earth from space without doing a full orbit. Guests will be able to unbuckle their seatbelts and be able to experience the weightlessness of outer space for a few minutes before landing back on Earth.
The price has yet to be announced by Blue Origin.
The company hopes to be testing human flight in their New Shepard booster by the end of 2018, and then launching commercial tourism by 2019.
Cassie Thonen is a Space Reporter and Photojournalist for Star Letters. She studied Studio Art and Design at Northern Illinois University, with a degree emphasis in Photography. When she is not chasing rockets or staring at the stars, Cassie can be found perfecting her photography or with her dogs, Frankie and Chewie. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.