New Shepard launches astronauts into space

Jeff Bezos declared today ‘the best ever’ after he and three others became the first to launch and return to Earth in New Shepard, a vehicle designed for the nascent space tourism market.

As well as Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen was among the astronauts, becoming the first paying customer to fly on board New Shepard. He was accompanied by Jeff’s brother Mark Bezos and 82-year-old flight pioneer Wally Funk on the 10 minute 10 second flight that took off from a launch site in Texas at 1412 BST.

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After separating from the rocket at around 250,000′, the astronaut’s capsule continued toward the Kármán Line, reaching an apogee of 105km AGL/107 km MSL. The astronauts had a four-minute window in which they could experience weightlessness before returning to Earth. On its descent, three drogue parachutes deployed on Blue Origin before the main parachutes were activated for a smooth landing.

New Shepard
New Shepard (Image: Blue Origin)

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The reusable rocket fulfilled its brief with its ring and wedge fins and drag breaks helping the BE-3 engine make a controlled landing on a designated spot at around 5mph.

Jeff Bezos has ambitions to fly beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and his space exploration company Blue Origin states it ‘is committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future’.

Prior to today’s flight, New Shepard had safely flown 15 consecutive missions. Blue Origin expects to fly two more crewed flights this year, with more planned for 2022.

Key stats from today’s mission

Crew capsule apogee: 347,563 ft AGL / 351,210 ft MSL (105 km AGL / 107 km MSL)
Booster apogee: 347,188 ft AGL / 350,835 ft MSL (105 km AGL / 106 km MSL)
Elapsed mission time: 10:10
Max ascent velocity: 2,233 mph (3,595 km/h)