Blue Origin, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ space venture, launched the first developmental test flight of its New Shepard spacecraft in West Texas on Thursday.
Bezos himself was on hand for the occasion, making a cameo appearance in this video, first in the control room and then holding binoculars on the deck outside.
“The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect. Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return,” writes Bezos in a recap post.
“In fact, if New Shepard had been a traditional expendable vehicle, this would have been a flawless first test flight,” he adds. “Of course one of our goals is reusability, and unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent.”
Bezos says the company will forge ahead, with an improved hydraulic system.
Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., is in a race with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to master the vertical landing of booster rockets. SpaceX, which has already flown multiple supply missions to the International Space Station, recently came close to pulling off a successful landing on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean. Musk’s company is disputing a patent won by Blue Origin for landing booster rockets at sea.
“We continue to be big fans of the vertical takeoff, vertical landing architecture,” writes Bezos. “We chose VTVL because it’s scalable to very large size. We’re already designing New Shepard’s sibling, her Very Big Brother – an orbital launch vehicle that is many times New Shepard’s size and is powered by our 550,000-lbf thrust liquefied natural gas, liquid oxygen BE-4 engine.”
Here’s the raw video of the flight, from a long-distance camera.
Check out more videos and images on Blue Origin’s site.