Blue Origin, a private spaceflight company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, carried out another successful test of their New Shepard rocket today, taking off without a hitch from the sands of Texas at 12:50 P.M. EST on Wednesday, April 14. After it hit its peak altitude (apogee) of 348,753 feet (106,021 meters) and deployed its payload, both the booster and uncrewed crew capsule of NS-15 fell back to Earth.
The booster itself softly touched down on a landing pad in the planned vertical position after reigniting its engines to slow down, while the crew capsule deployed its parachutes before gently landing in the desert. This was the second launch of a New Shepard booster and capsule — and, so far, the company is two for two.
Before and after the flight, a group of stand-in astronauts went through a dress rehearsal, practicing the movements that future astronauts and customers will take during launch. No actually astronauts were onboard this flight — except, of course, the company’s ever-faithful test dummy named Mannequin Skywalker.
In the future, Blue Origin hopes to use their New Shepard rocket to bring paying customers to the edge of space, where they will briefly experience the thrill of weightlessness. According to reporting from CNBC in January, Blue Origin hopes its next test flight with NS-16 will be crewed. At this time, there is not a confirmed date for the launch.