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Blue Origin launched its first rocket in over a year, and nailed the landing

  • An updated New Shepard booster launched, landed, and successfully deployed the unmanned Crew Capsule 2.0 on Tuesday.
  • Blue Origin did not confirm rumor of the launch until half a day later.
  • New Shepard's booster reached nearly 61 miles above sea level before the capsule separated and both returned to Earth.

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, said that on Tuesday an updated New Shepard booster launched, landed, and successfully deployed the unmanned Crew Capsule 2.0. It was the rocket company's first launch in 14 months.

The seventh mission for New Shepard launched midday from Blue Origin's facility in the desert of west Texas, north of Van Horn. CEO Bob Smith said in a statement the flight was "a tremendous success" for both the rocket and the capsule.

Bezos, who founded the company and invests $1 billion each year into Blue Origin from selling Amazon stock, sent out video of the launch and landing in a tweet.

New Shepard's booster — named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard — reached nearly 61 miles above sea level before the capsule separated. The booster than returned to land on a concrete pad, smoothly coming back to Earth at about 7 miles per hour.

The capsule, with a test dummy on board named "Mannequin Skywalker," touched down on the desert floor at 1 mile per hour. Bezos said the dummy, which gathered information through implanted instruments, "had a great ride." Also on board were 12 other payloads, which Blue Origin says were a mix of commercial, research and education. Space hardware builder NanoRacks said Wednesday that it integrated the payloads onto the rocket.

Jeff Bezos checking out Blue Origin's Crew Capsule 2.0 after touchdown in West Texas on December 12, 2017.
Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos checking out Blue Origin's Crew Capsule 2.0 after touchdown in West Texas on December 12, 2017.

Blue Origin highlighted the capsule's large windows, measuring 2.4 feet wide by 3.6 feet tall. Designed to hold six astronauts, Crew Capsule 2.0 is built to make it cheaper and easier for humans to experience weightlessness on the edge of space. After disconnecting from New Shepard's booster, the capsule glides in space at three times the speed of sound for a few minutes before gravity pulls the craft into a free fall. Three parachutes and a retro-thrust system slow the capsule before touchdown.

While the launch happened at midday, Bezos waited until late Tuesday night to confirm rumors that the launch occurred.

The Federal Aviation Administration listed Mission 7's license publicly a few days before yet did not respond to requests to confirm the launch's timing. Blue Origin also did not respond to requests for comment until after Bezos' tweet.

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