Blue Origin launches, lands Mannequin Skywalker with upgraded spacecraft

Blue Origin launches, lands Mannequin Skywalker with upgraded spacecraft

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his space venture, Blue Origin, launched the latest version of its New Shepard suborbital spaceship today for the company's first test flight in 14 months, with an instrumented test dummy seated aboard.

Further details noted the flight time was 10 minutes and six seconds, launching at 10:59 a.m. CT from Blue Origin's West Texas test site.

Blue Origin's "Mannequin Skywalker" has rocketed nearly all the way to space, just in time for the new Star Wars movie.

The new Crew Capsule 2.0 features large windows, which measure 2.4 feet wide, 3.6 feet tall.

The seventh flight of the company's New Shepard suborbital spacecraft at the company's West Texas launch site Tuesday carried a test dummy called Mannequin Skywalker, equipped with sensors.

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The recent flight was the third New Shepard tail number to fly.

"He had a great ride", Bezos said in a tweet.

As the capsule plunges back towards the lower atmosphere, passengers will experience the opposite end of the weight spectrum, dealing with five times the gravity as they approach sea level and before the parachute deploys for a landing. Blue Origin also waited about 12 hours after the test to release images and to confirm that a successful test had taken place-a reversion toward secrecy after Blue Origin had become more open about its test flight program in 2016.

There's still a good amount of testing that needs to be done before the Shepard test flight turns into a commercially available experience. The previous test capsule had windows painted on.

With a large production facility on Merritt Island nearing completion of its initial build, construction of their launch pad and testing facilities proceeding well, and a successful first firing of their BE-4 engine, Blue Origin is on track to meet the company's stated goal of debuting their New Glenn heavy-lift launch vehicle sometime in 2020.