I guess you can't be a brilliant and innovative billionaire these days without having your own line of spaceships.
Blue Origin, a space tourism company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, launched a surprise test flight last week, reaching 307,000 feet (93,574 meters) with its New Shepard space vehicle. You can watch the promo video below.
According to Tariq Malik at Scientific American, the developmental test successfully demonstrated New Shepard's capabilities to reach the farthest reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Unfortunately for Bezos and company, the mission's secondary objective of retrieving New Shepard's reusable rocket boosters was not so successful. Despite this, Bezos seemed ecstatic with the test results, writing that if an astronaut had been riding within the spacecraft, he or she would have enjoyed a very pleasant and safe launch, ride, and landing.
Here's Malik on some of Blue Origin's specs:
"Blue Origin has been quietly developing reusable rocket engines and spacecraft to launch paying passengers into space.
The New Shepard spacecraft is designed to launch at least three people — and possibly more, depending on other payload — on round trips to suborbital space. It is powered by Blue Origin's BE-3 rocket engine, which generates 110,000 pounds of thrust and is fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen."
One final note, since I know many of you are probably thinking it, regarding the New Shepard's rather phallic design: I don't think Dr. Evil has much of an intellectual property rights case against them.
Below, Neil deGrasse Tyson pours cold water on some common delusions about the private sector and space exploration. Government-sponsored missions are necessary for blazing exploratory trails. Space tourism, on the other hand, sounds like a great use of the private sector's time and investment:
Photo credit: Blue Origin