Blue Origin sends NASA-backed payloads to space

New Shepard launch
Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship lifts off from its West Texas launch site. (Blue Origin via YouTube)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture sent eight NASA-sponsored scientific payloads to the edge of space and back on its New Shepard suborbital spaceship, marking another step toward putting people on board.

The rocket lifted off into clear, chilly skies from Blue Origin’s launch site in West Texas at 9:08 a.m. CT (7:08 a.m. PT). Minutes after launch, New Shepard’s gumdrop-shaped capsule separated from the hydrogen-fueled booster and headed to a maximum unofficial altitude of 350,775 feet (66 miles or 107 kilometers). That’s well above the 100-kilometer Karman Line that currently serves as the internationally accepted boundary of space.

The reusable booster maneuvered itself back to a landing on a pad not far from where it was launched, while the capsule deployed its parachutes and drifted back down to the desert terrain.

“Welcome home, New Shepard. Wow!” launch commentator Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s head of astronaut strategy and sales, said during today’s webcast.

In a follow-up tweet, Blue Origin said the 10-minute, 15-second mission “looks to have been a wholly successful flight.”

“A perfect day,” Bezos said in an Instagram posting:

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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