Blue Origin plans high-altitude escape test on launch Wednesday

Assuming success Wednesday, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos appears to be getting closer to flying humans into space on New Shepard.

"On Mission 9, were firing the crew capsule escape motor at the highest altitude ever".

This is the ninth test of the reusable New Shepard system and the third in which it has included commercial payloads on its short suborbital flights.

The climax of the uncrewed test flight came shortly after New Shepard's capsule separated from its booster and switched on its 70,000-pound-thrust escape rocket motor.

The motor performed as expected, giving the capsule an extra boost and setting an altitude record of 118.8 kilometers before landing by parachute 11 minutes after liftoff. After that, both the capsule and the rocket safely returned to Earth.

As it continues to progress toward human flights, Blue Origin will perform another potentially unsafe uncrewed test today of its New Shepard rocket and spacecraft.

Despite the fact that this is a test, there are payloads aboard New Shepard.

A crew capsule mounted on top of the New Shepard rocket will carry experiments and a dummy nicknamed "Mannequin Skywalker" to simulate the experience passengers will see on future flights.

The company's Florida team was watching today's webcast, as was the team at Blue Origin's headquarters in Kent, Wash., where New Shepard hardware is manufactured.

Piloted test flights are expected to start later this year, but no target dates have been announced. Unlike NASA's Mercury and Apollo spacecraft, which jettisoned their escape rockets before reaching orbit, Blue Origin's is built into the capsule.

Although Blue Origin is yet to provide details, it is understood the company has already purchased the first landing ship for returning New Glenn boosters. The company has not said what the price of the tickets would be.

Numerous payloads will be flying in the spacecraft during the test, ranging from worldwide customers, such as Thailand's "mu Space-1" - which includes an assortment of scientific and medical items, several textile materials they plan to use on their future space suit and apparel, and other special articles for their community partners - through to a suite of payloads from Blue Origin employees as a part of their internal "Fly My Stuff" program. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development.

"It's coming", said Cornell, who's in charge of astronaut sales as well as launch commentary.

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