"It's an important test in our march towards flying humans into space, which hopefully will be soon", Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, during a company webcast of the test.

A Blue Origin New Shepard spacecraft - the vehicle Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is developing to carry tourists on sub-orbital rides into space -rocketed away from Texas early Wednesday and then fired its abort motor to quickly push the capsule away in a high-altitude test of its safety systems. One company sent up a system created to provide reliable WiFi connectivity in space, while another added a number of textiles to the capsule so they could test their viability for use in space suits. It was the ninth test flight and lasted 11 minutes. (Blue Origin via You Tube) New Shepard's capsule fires its retros as it touches down for a landing.

TESTING. TESTING. Blue Origin wasn't the only company testing the waters with this New Shepard rocket launch; the rocket's capsule contained a variety of devices and experiments for scientists and educators conducting microgravity research.

The reusable New Shepard rocket settles to a picture-perfect touchdown.

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Another payload offered an unusual synergy with another part of Blue Origin. It was the eighth time the company successfully tested the system for future passenger flights.

It's part of a safety system meant to save lives once space tourists and others climb aboard for suborbital hops.

Blue Origin has provided only vague schedules about when human flights would begin, with company officials saying recently they anticipated starting to fly humans on test flights by the end of this year.

The capsule, meanwhile, climbed to a maximum altitude of around 393,000 feet - more than 74 miles - subjecting an instrumented test dummy - "Mannequin Skywalker" - to about 10 times the force of gravity during the brief abort motor firing, which pushed the craft about 50,000 feet higher than a normal flight. Such systems are created to fire quickly and separate the crew capsule from the booster during an emergency. "It's coming", she said. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development. A separate employee said prices would begin at $200,000, according to Reuters. The New Glenn will compete with United Launch Alliance's upcoming Vulcan rocket and with SpaceX boosters in the US launch market.


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