Blue Origin subjects its rocket to high-altitude escape test

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TESTING. TESTING. Blue Origin wasn't the only company testing the waters with this New Shepard rocket launch; the rocket's capsule contained a variety of devices and experiments for scientists and educators conducting microgravity research.

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While this test was unmanned, the reusable rocket is created to deliver payloads - and potentially tourists - to sub-orbital space. The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), which was about five percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. It should start at 8 a.m. PT.

"Crew Capsule looks great even after it was pushed hard by the escape test. Astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing", Bezos said in a tweet.

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New Shepard's reusable booster comes in for a landing. "We're going to be firing it in the vacuum of space for the first time", Cornell said.

The launch included a number of different scientific instruments, medical items, and testing materials, along with Blue Origin's "Fly My Stuff" program, where the company's employees send their own materials into space.

Mannequin Skywalker had a smooth landing, Cornell reported.

The solid-fuel "pusher" abort motor, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne with subsystems provided by Blue Origin, is created to quickly ignite on command from flight controllers or an on-board computer if safety software detects an impending booster malfunction, rapidly propelling the capsule and its crew away from the rocket with a jarring burst of acceleration.

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Blue Origin tested the motor at a lower altitude during a memorable flight back in October 2016, but the company's engineers wanted to make sure that the system would work as well at a higher altitude, where the atmosphere thins out to near-nothingness. "At Blue Origin, we're all about safety", she said.

Blue Origin has completed a sprawling rocket factory near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build New Glenn rockets and is developing a launch pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Eventually, up to six passengers at a time could get on board the New Shepard spaceship, which flies under autonomous control. Also, ticket prices for a trip into space haven't yet been decided, noted Cornell.

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