Blue Origin Tests Rocket Slated For Moon Return

Blue Origin has successfully tested its New Shepard booster rocket designed to help take humans into outer space, and even return to the moon by 2024.

The news of the successful test of the rocket emerged after NASA congratulated the Blue Origin team in a tweet.

It comes after Blue Origin had launched its 12th test flight of its rocket designed for space tourists last December.

NASA test

Blue Origin is of course the space exploration company of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The test launch on Tuesday saw the New Shepard booster blast off from Blue Origin’s test facility near Van Horn, Texas.

The 18m-tall New Shepard rocket was unmanned, but still managed to land vertically on the ground after returning from space – much like SpaceX rockets do.

Doing this allows space exploration firms to reuse rockets and save a great deal of money in the process.

It reached a maximum altitude of 105km (346,000ft) above the ground.

“Congratulations to @blueorigin on another successful #NewShepard mission, completing the first integrated test of our precision landing technologies,” tweeted NASA. “Our engineers look forward to analyzing the data and preparing for the next flight!”

A video of the rocket’s return to earth can be found here.

It should be noted that besides its NASA trip to the moon, Blue Origin intends to enter the space tourism market, namely the taking of rich space tourists into space.

In this regard it will be competing directly with the likes of Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company founded by Richard Branson, which aims to fly wealthy passengers on scenic trips to suborbital space.

Moon mission

But Blue Origin is also looking to help NASA return to the moon by 2024, for the first time since 1972.

This time last year, Blue Origin signed deals with a number of companies for a lunar landing system, as it no longer planned to build a giant lunar lander (called the Blue Moon lunar lander) for NASA by itself.

Instead it partnered up Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, to jointly develop a lunar landing system for the space agency capable of taking humans to and from the Moon’s surface.

Bezos venture

Blue Origin is funded solely by Jeff Bezos, whose vast personal fortune makes him one of the richest people in the world.

In 2017 Bezos sold 1 million shares worth a staggering $940.74million (£727m) as he continued to plough funds into space venture.

He has admitted he sells about $1bn (£773m) in Amazon stock per year to fund Blue Origin.

The Blue Origin mission is to build “a road to space with our reusable launch vehicles,” but initially the firm aims to send tourists on brief flights into suborbital space where they can experience weightlessness and gain a view of the Earth.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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