Blue Origin, the rocket venture founded by Jeff Bezos, launched its space tourism rocket from its West Texas test site to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere on Tuesday, marking the first test flight of the rocket in nearly a year.
It marked the 13th test flight of New Shepard, as the vehicle is called, but it still has yet to fly with humans on board. Blue Origin wants to eventually send paying customers on brief joy rides to the edge of space, but the company has not started selling tickets, nor has it announced a price. So far, the vehicle has only carried science experiments and, at one point, a test dummy nicknamed Mannequin Skywalker.
During a webcast of the test flight Tuesday, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said only that the company is “very close” to being ready to fly humans.
New Shepard consists of two pieces — a small, dome-shaped capsule with gaping rectangular windows, and a 60-foot-tall rocket booster that blasts the capsule up to three times the speed of sound as it hurtles toward outer space. The capsule is designed to detach from the rocket near the top of its flight path, climbing more than 60 miles high and spending a few minutes suspended in weightlessness before parachuting back to Earth.