Blue Origin reaches a big milestone, lands rocket booster and crew capsule

Blue Origin is inching ever closer to sending folks into space. With tickets slated to cost somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000, it’s safe to say that folks are getting antsy for their opportunity to blast off. Earlier this week, Jeff Bezos’ space endeavor completed its most important test yet in the form of a live separation of its crew capsule from its rocket booster. Everything went according to plan and because the crew set off its escape motor at just the right time, the capsule was sent further into space than ever before. With this most recent trial green light, the rocket company is closer than ever to its goal of becoming fully operational by the end of 2018.

The launch marked the ninth such occasion for Blue Origin and the third for the New Shepard rocket. Like SpaceX’s spacecraft and boosters, both of Blue Origin’s major components are meant to be reused. In total, the launch lasted around 150 seconds, after which the engine was shut off. The capsule then coasted the rest of its way into space, while the booster plummeted back to Earth, engaging its landing gear and rocket-powered brakes in order to safely land on the ground. The capsule makes use of its parachutes to safely land. The capsule ultimately floated for about nine minutes (the whole thing lasted 11 minutes), and reached a top speed of 2,236 mph and a top height of 389,846 feet above Earth’s surface.

The launch has clearly captured the public’s imagination, as more than 20,000 folks watched Blue Origin’s YouTube livestream to see the test. Perhaps some of the interest was spurred by the likelihood that these watchers may one day become passengers. During the test, Blue Origin engineers placed a mannequin inside the capsule to represent a human passenger.

“[The mannequin] probably peaked at 10 Gs,” Blue Origin’s Ariane Cornell said during the livestream. “But you know what? That is well within what humans can take, especially within such a short spurt of time and in those reclined seats. It’s just important that we bring the astronauts home safely.”

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