Blue Origin wrapped up another successful mission on Tuesday, in which it launched and landed a single booster for a record seventh time.
Set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has been launching its reusable New Shepard rocket since 2015, with this the company’s 13th successful suborbital flight.
This latest mission, NS-13, was supposed to take place at the end of September, but a technical issue kept it grounded until this week.
With everything fixed, the New Shepard rocket blasted off from Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas on Tuesday morning. Separation from the capsule occurred at around 250,000 feet, at which point the booster began its journey back to Earth where it nailed a perfect landing seven-and-a-half minutes after lift-off. The capsule returned from an altitude of around 345,000 feet, landing approximately three minutes after the booster.
Blue Origin’s seventh launch and landing of a single booster is one more than that achieved so far by a Falcon 9 rocket operated by SpaceX, a company that’s also developing a reusable system for more cost-effective space transportation.
NS-13 carried 12 commercial payloads to suborbital space and back. One of the payloads, NASA’s “Deorbit, Descent, and Landing Sensor Demonstration,” was attached to the exterior of the rocket, marking the first time for Blue Origin to send a payload to suborbital space on the outside of its spacecraft rather than inside the capsule.
NASA’s kit was designed to test precision landing technologies for the space agency’s planned Artemis mission to the moon in 2024, which is set to put the first woman and next man on the lunar surface.
“Today’s flight was inspiring,” Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin, said in a release, adding, “Using New Shepard to simulate landing on the moon is an exciting precursor to what the Artemis program will bring to America.”
Just prior to the launch, Blue Origin offered its first-ever video tour of the inside of its crew capsule, which is set to carry high-paying passengers on an almost identical flight path as today’s mission as part of an upcoming space tourism service.
Blue Origin has also been working with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper to create a prototype of what has the potential to become NASA’s crew lander for its upcoming moon trips. The prototype is now undergoing testing at the space agency’s Johnson Space Center.
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