Blue Origin launches, lands same rocket record 6 times

Science and Technology

In this image taken from video provided by Blue Origin, the New Shepard rocket takes off near Van Horn, Texas. Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, has scored another successful spaceflight, when it launched and landed the same rocket for the sixth time Wednesday. (Blue Origin via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company, has scored another successful spaceflight.

Blue Origin used the same rocket for the sixth time Wednesday in West Texas. The suborbital flight exposed the capsule and its contents — including NASA experiments, artwork and a commercial grape vine study — to more than three minutes of weightlessness.

The capsule reached a peak altitude of 65 miles (104 kilometers), just above the official threshold for space. The New Shepard rocket landed vertically seven minutes after liftoff, followed by the capsule, which parachuted down to end the 10-minute flight.

“Welcome back, New Shepard. A beautiful launch to space and back,” said launch commentator Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital sales. “We can’t wait to do it again.”

Cornell said the company plans another couple of spaceflights before putting people on board. The craft has the biggest windows ever built into a spacecraft.

Earlier this year, Blue Origin said it aimed to fly passengers by the end of 2019. This was the company’s 12th test flight and the third this year.

“We are going to take our time, step by step, and as we’ve said before, this is not a race. We need to understand the entire system,” Cornell said.

NASA had trash-recycling and plant experiments on board. Space Cargo Unlimited, a Luxembourg start-up that flew 12 bottles of red Bordeaux wine to the International Space Station last month for a year of aging, had vine calluses, or cells, from three types of French Cabernet grapes on board, each in its own petri dish.

The flight also included stacks of postcards from youngsters who drew their vision of the future of space. The postcards will be returned to their creators with a flown-in-space postmark.

New Shepard is named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space. The company is working in Cape Canaveral on a larger orbital-class rocket, named New Glenn after the first American to orbit the world, John Glenn.

Bezos is the founder of Amazon.

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