This morning, Blue Origin launched and landed its New Shepard rocket for the fourth time — and we got to watch the entire thing live. It was the first ever live broadcast of a Blue Origin test flight, showing the vehicle’s ascent to the edge of space and then its subsequent fall and touchdown back on Earth. The flight was originally scheduled to take place at 10:15AM ET, but was pushed back to 10:36AM ET due to particularly hot weather at the launch pad in West Texas. Once the vehicle took off, though, the entire 11-minute flight went off without a hitch.
And we got to watch the entire thing live
The New Shepard is currently Blue Origin’s premiere vehicle, designed to take six paying customers up to 62 miles above the Earth’s surface. These passengers are meant to ride along inside a crew capsule that sits on top of the rocket (though the capsule was empty today). Once in space, the rocket and capsule separate, and that's where any future passengers will experience around four minutes of weightlessness. Afterward, the capsule and rocket fall back down to Earth, both landing intact but in very different ways. The rocket portion reignites its engines to lower itself down gently onto solid ground, while the capsule lands safely thanks to a series of parachutes.
Today's flight, however, featured an intentional crash landing of the crew capsule. Blue Origin wanted know if the vehicle could keep people safe during a failure, so on the vehicle's descent, one of the capsule's main parachutes purposefully failed to deploy. Even with this change, the entire test flight went as smoothly as all the previous tests. Both the rocket and the capsule made it safely down in one piece.
Hopefully we can expect more shows like this, since Blue Origin will continue doing these uncrewed flight tests over the next year. CEO Jeff Bezos said that the New Shepard vehicle will start taking test pilots into space as soon as 2017 and paying customers can start riding in 2018. However, no word yet on how much tickets will cost, though tickets on Virgin Galactic's suborbital spaceplane, which also promises tourists a quick trip to space, are running for $250,000.