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Blue Origin successfully tests escape system in latest New Shepard launch

19 July 2018

Blue Origin completed the ninth flight of its New Shepard rocket Wednesday, wrapping up another test of the vehicle's escape system as the company works toward its first human space flight as soon as this year.

Blue Origin is testing its New Shepard rocket for the ninth time.

The high-altitude emergency abort test is created to figure out what may happen when there's a problem with the launch rocket, according to Engadget. Unlike NASA's Mercury and Apollo spacecraft, which jettisoned their escape rockets before reaching orbit, Blue Origin's is built into the capsule. "We will begin selling tickets sometime after our first human flights and are focused on developing New Shepard", the company said in a statement, CNET reported.

Update, 7:06 a.m. PT: The launch time has changed. The rocket will be performing a "high altitude escape motor test", the company said on Twitter, simulating a high-altitude emergency scenario by igniting the escape booster on the bottom of the passenger, or in this case, payload capsule.

The launch included a number of different scientific instruments, medical items, and testing materials, along with Blue Origin's "Fly My Stuff" program, where the company's employees send their own materials into space.

Booster landing
New Shepard’s reusable booster comes in for a landing

Both the booster and capsule that sits atop the rocket successfully returned to Earth. "We haven't set a price".

It's also not yet known how much Blue Origin plans to charge for rides in a New Shepard capsule. It's coming, but we've got our eye on the prize, and we've got to make sure we understand our system through and through.

Although there weren't any people aboard this test flight, Blue Origin's test dummy, Mannequin Skywalker, was strapped in a chair to measure the gravitation forces a real body might experience during a somewhat violent abort.

But if all goes well, she said, "it's going to be a sweet ride". There is speculation that Bezos himself, the world's richest person, will be among the first people to fly on New Shepard. The hardware used in previous tests has been retired and put on exhibit at Blue Origin's Florida rocket factory, where the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will be built. But the company has not set a firm timetable for the start of crewed test flights, or the launch of commercial services directed at the space tourism and suborbital research markets.

Blue Origin successfully tests escape system in latest New Shepard launch