Blue Origin will perform a high-altitude abort test at 10AM ET

Blue Origin New Shepard launch

Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship blasts off for a high-altitude escape system test

As planned, the high-altitude firing pushed the capsule past the boundary of outer space, to an unofficial maximum altitude of 389,846 feet, or 119 kilometers.

Two successful abort tests were carried out earlier, one from ground level in 2012 and a second at mid-level altitudes during a 2016 test flight.

The testing on Flight 9 will once again focus on the safety systems. Once it reached the threshold of space, the capsule fired its motors, shooting it away from the booster in a maneuver the company said would "push the rocket to its limits".

Likewise during Wednesday's flight, the booster appeared to behave normally despite the sudden rush of exhaust and the powerful thrust of the abort motor. On a standard mission, the craft separates from the rocket after engine cutoff and lands with the aid of parachutes.

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. Launch commentator Ariane Cornell promised it would be soon.

Mannequin Skywalker had a smooth landing, Cornell reported.

If all goes well, the demonstration may well see Blue Origin closer to flying people on brief trips to space.

Booster landing
New Shepard’s reusable booster comes in for a landing

This was the third trip to space for both this New Shepherd rocket booster and the crew capsule, both created to be reusable like SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsules.

It is a so-called "full envelope" abort system, meaning it is created to operate in all phases of flight, from ground level to high altitudes and any point in between.

Blue Origin is developing a much bigger rocket, called New Glenn, as an orbital launcher. The launch from Blue Origin's test site in West Texas is set to occur at 14:00 UTC - with the test campaign now in the final leg ahead of carrying paying customers.

If passengers were on board, that's when they would experience a few minutes of weightlessness.

Piloted test flights are expected to start later this year, but no target dates have been announced.

This launch was the ninth for the New Shepard program, and the third for this particular combination of crew capsule and propulsion module. "That means understanding everything that's necessary for human spaceflight, including the escape system". "It's coming", she said.

Those payloads some that flew previously, like the Schmitt Space Communicator developed by Solstar, a New Mexico company seeking to demonstrate the use of wifi communications technologies in space.




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