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Blue Origin Executes New Shepard Launch, Tests New Crew Capsule

By Rachel Jewett | January 14, 2021

Interior of the Blue Origin New Shepard Crew Capsule. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard suborbital rocket on Thursday, testing upgrades to its crew capsule. This was the 14th New Shepard mission for Blue Origin, the commercial launch service of Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos. The New Shepard is a reusable suborbital rocket designed to take space tourists and research payloads to the edge of space. 

New Shepard took off from Launch Site One in West Texas at 12:17 p.m. ET. Blue Origin reported the crew capsule reached an apogee of 347,568 ft above ground level, and the reached an apogee of 347,211 ft above ground level. Both the booster and the crew capsule had successful landings, with the booster landing about 7:24 into the mission. 

There were no crew on this mission, but the six-seat crew capsule featured upgrades as the New Shepard program prepares for human spaceflight. Upgrades included speakers in the cabin with push-to-talk button at each seat so astronauts can continuously talk to mission control, and a crew alert system to relay messages to passengers. 

The last New Shepard launch prior to Thursday’s mission was NS-13 in October 2020.