Blue Origin’s Shepard Rocket: One Year Later

On November 23, 2015, Blue Origin became the first entity to achieve a controlled, vertical landing of a rocket. Its New Shepard, named after the first American in space, flew an unmanned suborbital path just above the Kármán Line to outer space and returned safely.

The same rocket made three additional test flights earlier this year: January 2, April 2, and June 19. This schedule demonstrated the re-usability of the New Shepard. You can see additional videos on the Blue Origin website.

That rocket wasn’t expected to survive its fifth flight, which tested the abort system, among other mission objectives. Yet it flew and landed once again on October 5, 2016.

Blue Origin’s plan is to offer the astronaut experience to paying customers. That’s right, Jeff Bezos not only wants to deliver books to your door via Amazon but also wants to deliver you to space for a few minutes of adventure. As such, its capsule will have the largest windows of any space vehicle, measuring 42.7 x 2.6 inches (though it narrows bottom to top). It will carry six passengers with enough room for everyone to do weightless somersaults.

The company’s motto is Gradatim Ferociter, or step by step ferociously. While their suborbital BE-3 engine is already flying, they are testing the orbital BE-4 engine for United Launch Alliance, which provides flight support services to NASA.

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