SpaceX has dominated headlines so far in 2018 thanks to the successful launch of the Falcon Heavy and numerous Falcon 9 missions, but it’s not the only private spaceflight company in town. Blue Origin, the spaceflight startup from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is making some steady progress on its own high-flying ambitions, and the company spent its Sunday morning launching its New Shepard rocket and crew capsule to an altitude of around 66 miles before cruising back down to Earth.
The launch took place from the Blue Origin West Texas Launch Site, and was the 8th mission in the New Shepard program thus far. The spacecraft had a passenger aboard as well, albeit a non-living one: “Mannequin Skywalker” is a test dummy outfitted with sensors to relay information back to the Blue Origin science team. Check out the video of the launch below.
The video features extensive commentary from Blue Origin’s staff as well as full video of the launch and landing of both the rocket and the crew capsule. If you want to skip right to the best part, the launch itself takes place at around 38 minutes into the video.
Like SpaceX, Blue Origin is aiming to make reusable rockets a standard feature of its launch service. The rocket used in this particular mission had previously flown on Mission 7, giving the company a chance to demonstrate how well its used rockets can perform on subsequent flights.
Speaking of subsequent flights, the reusable rocket concept only works if the rocket actually lands gently back on Earth like it’s supposed to, and Blue Origin showed off its ability to make that happen as well. The touchdown of the rocket was pretty much perfect, and you’ll see that the cylinder hovered above the ground for a few seconds before finally descending and shutting down.
It’s not secret that Blue Origin is at a much earlier stage of its rocket development and testing than SpaceX is, but things seem to be coming along nicely. Blue Origin has chosen to focus more on the prospect of tourist trips, with manned crew capsules full of paying adventurers spending between 10 and 12 minutes in zero-gravity orbit before heading back down to Earth. That is, if you can do without a bathroom break.