In Brief
  • About 45 seconds into flight, at an altitude of 16,000 feet (5,000 meters), Blue Origin's capsule fired its onboard "escape motor" in a test trial today.
  • The parachutes successfully deployed and, to top it off, the rocket landed safely back on Earth.

A New Era For The New Shepard

Today, Blue Origin, the aerospace startup that has Amazon’s Jeff Bezos at the helm, successfully tested the New Shepard rocket’s escape system. And to top it off, they landed their rocket in one piece in a remote area in Texas.

With the company intending to test the rocket’s escape system during flight by igniting an explosive fire beneath the crew capsule, the world was bracing for the destruction of the New Shepard. Yes, we didn’t really have high hopes for the success of the mission. Given the previous issues with the rocketry, such skepticism is understandable.

But far from a fiery explosion, the capsule’s parachutes were successfully opened before the capsule (and the rocket) gently landed back on the Earth’s surface.

This is the first vehicle that the company was able to land safely after they launched it into space. But despite coming back to Earth intact, the rocket will not be flying again and will, instead, be bound for a museum.

You can watch the recording of the test here:

The Future of Space Travel

Blue Origin’s rocket and capsule system is designed for suborbital flights. And to that end, eventually, the company hopes to be able to send tourists to the edge of space. According to the design, a maximum of six individuals can fit inside the crew capsule, and the booster can carry it 100 km (62 miles) above Earth’s surface—generally considered to be the edge of outer space.

There, albeit briefly, the passengers can experience what it would be like to be weightless in space, before the capsule eventually separates from the booster and it falls back to Earth. The landing system involves parachutes to be deployed before the booster reignites, so that it can land upright on Earth.

The successful test of the capsule’s safety measures, as well as its surprising safe landing, is a huge milestone leading towards the reality of commercial space flight.