American aerospace company Blue Origin has successfully tested the crew capsule module of its New Shepard reusable rocket at the company's west Texas flight test facility on Thursday, January 16.
During the test, the rocket's hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine lifted the crew capsule to an altitude of just over 350,000 feet, well above the accepted lower "boundary" of space. It reached a maximum velocity of 2,242 mph before releasing the crew capsule around two minutes and 40 seconds mark. As the capsule slowly descended after deploying its three large parachutes, the booster section headed for it's designated landing pad, restarting its engine at the last moment to slow down it's decent. The duration of the entire mission was 10 minutes and 15 seconds.
Although the capsule did not carry any passengers during this test, it did carry there were 50,000 postcards on board from school kids all around the world. It also carried a life-sized test dummy —dubbed "Mannequin Skywalker" by the crew— equipped with a variety of sensors to test various elements of the environment passengers will experience.
This test marks the 14th suborbital flight of a New Shepard spacecraft, bringing the system one step closers to its planned use for commercial space tourism operations.