Science

Blue Origin's New Shepard launches into space and reaches 351,000 feet

The verticle takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle went on its highest test flight to date.

A space vehicle which could one day be used for manned space travel has successfully flown for the eighth time.

New Shepard from Blue Origin, the company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, blasted skywards from the firm’s West Texas Launch Site on April 29.

The crew capsule reached an apogee of 351,000ft, that’s 66 miles above the Earth, which is the altitude Blue Origin has been targeting and its highest test flight yet.

A spokesman for Blue Origin said: “For the second time, Blue Origin’s test dummy Mannequin Skywalker flew to space conducting astronaut telemetry and science studies. The flight also carried research payloads for Nasa, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and commercial customers.”

Among the payloads was a concept for providing commercial Wi-Fi access to in-space users, and an experiment looking at the effects of microgravity on daphnia water fleas – seen as a key species for bioregenerative life support systems for human space exploration.

Mission 8 (M8) featured a reflight of the vehicle flown on Mission 7. The New Shepard system is a vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle design to be reused and combines a booster and capsule.

From launch, the vehicle accelerates for 150 seconds before the engines cut off. The capsule separates from the booster to coast quietly into space.

After a period of freefall, the booster completes a rocket-powered vertical landing at about 5mph. The capsule lands softly under parachutes. Both parts are reusable.

When manned, the New Shepard will seat six astronauts.

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