The Blue Origin in-flight escape test took place on Wednesday and was a resounding success, with both the crew capsule and booster expertly landing back on Earth. The test proved that the capsule is able to escape the booster in-flight in the case of an emergency, a key requirement towards sending tourists to space.
The flight, which took place over Blue Origin’s facilities in Texas was the fifth launch of the New Shepard booster. The reusable rocket is capable of reaching space on a suborbital trajectory, giving future passengers onboard the experience of weightlessness and some incredible views. Using a hover landing approach, the booster is capable of landing back on Earth for future reuse.
There were concerns prior to launch that the force of an escaping capsule would cause the New Shepard booster to be knocked off trajectory, tumbling back to Earth in a fiery explosion. However, no such explosion occurred. Instead, after capsule separation, the booster remained upright, allowing for a successful flight to apogee and then back down to Earth for landing.
Blue Origin was founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in September 2000. Although initially very quiet about their progress, in the last couple of years the company has begun showing off their progress. The New Shepard rocket first launched in April 2015, and achieved its first soft landing later that year in November. The first manned test flights are currently planned to take place in 2017, with space tourism flights potentially beginning as soon as 2018.