Photos: Upgraded New Shepard booster flies from West Texas

Photos: Upgraded New Shepard booster flies from West Texas

Crew Capsule 2.0 Crew Capsule 2.0 is just the latest in the design of a sub-orbital spacecraft that will take aspiring astronauts to the edge of space.

Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, successfully tested their reusable new Shepard rocket launch at company's west Texas site with a 'Mannequin Skywalker' inside large windows. The capsule's windows make up a third of the capsule, each one being 47.7 inches in length and 28.6 inches wide. Blue Origin drew from the lessons of the Mercury and Apollo programs in designing an escape system that is built around a solid rocket motor that provides 70,000 lbs. of thrust in a two-second burn, so the capsule can quickly move away from any hazard. The New Shephard booster came back to Earth tail-first, re-starting its hydrogen-fueled BE-3 main engine to slow down, deploying four legs and settling to a picture-perfect touchdown on a circular landing pad.

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Booster rocket makes perfect, controlled landing. The pressurized crew capsule, which features several large windows (about 2.4 by 3.6 feet), was occupied by a test dummy and a dozen payloads containing commercial, research, and education projects. Modifications to improve reusability for both the capsule and the booster were also made, such as improved paneling to access hardware for servicing between flights and more robust thermal protection, according to Spaceflight Now.

Tuesday's launch was Blue Origin's first launch since October 2016, which used an earlier New Shepard model. Ultimately Blue Origin plans to use the New Shepard rocket to launch paying customers on suborbital flights to space.