Blue Origin, the private company hoping to make space tourism a reality, has flown a new crew capsule into space that included the biggest windows ever launched.
The vehicle is called the Crew Capsule 2.0, and it launched on the reusable New Shepard booster from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site yesterday, December 12. This is the seventh successful flight for Blue Origin, known as Mission 7 (M7) by the company.
The capsule reached a height of 99.39 kilometers (61.76 miles) above sea level, slightly higher than the booster as the capsule was jettisoned at the top of the flight. This is technically 600 meters (2,000 feet) short of true space, the Karman Line, but still not bad.
After launching into oh-so-very-nearly-space, the booster came back to Earth and performed a controlled landing. The capsule returned to Earth via parachute – which paying tourists might one day experience themselves.
Check out the video of the launch above
The company said the windows on the capsule measured 0.7 meters (2.4 feet) wide and 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) tall, making them the biggest windows ever flown to near-space.
Earlier this year, the company unveiled its design for the crew capsule that will take paying customers to space. It’s unclear if the windows shown in that mock-up were the same as the ones flown here.
On this flight there was no one on board, but there was a test dummy called Mannequin Skywalker. There were also 12 research payloads, which Blue Origin hasn’t revealed any details about yet.
“NewShepard had a successful first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0 today,” Jeff Bezos, CEO of Blue Origin, said on Twitter. “Complete with windows and our instrumented test dummy. He had a great ride.”
In total from launch to landing the flight lasted 10 minutes and 6 seconds. The booster reached a maximum speed of Mach 2.94 on ascent and 3.74 on descent. It touched down at a gentle 10.8 km/h (6.8 mph), while the capsule touched down at 1.6 km/h (1 mph).
“Today’s flight of New Shepard was a tremendous success. It marks the inaugural flight of our next-generation Crew Capsule as we continue step-by-step progress in our test flight program,” said Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin, in a statement.
While the company has live streamed launches before, this time it only produced a highlight reel after. Which is a bit odd, as it has streamed a launch before that they thought would probably fail – but didn’t.
At any rate, it’s a big success for the company. It’s not clear what they’re planning next, but we do know they’re also building an orbital rocket called New Glenn, and want to start launching humans at some point. That includes taking customers in this crew capsule.