Blue Origin Successfully Launches New Shepard Cargo Mission With Research for NASA

Joe Skipper | Reuters

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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launched its New Shepard rocket for the fourth time this year but, despite carrying the billionaire founder in a crew on the last flight, Thursday's mission did not carry people inside the capsule.

Known as NS-17, this New Shepard mission is dedicated to carrying cargo. Blue Origin flew a NASA lunar lander technology demonstration and 18 customer research payloads inside the capsule — as well as an art installation on the top of the capsule.

Blue Origin
"Suborbital Tryptych," a series of three portraits by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, is painted on a panel on the top of the New Shepard crew capsule.

The rocket launched from Blue Origin's private facility in West Texas. It reached a maximum altitude of 347,430 feet (or 105.6 kilometers) before returning to Earth safely. The NS-17 mission lasted 10 minutes and 38 seconds from launch to capsule landing.

This New Shepard rocket booster, which is reusable, launched and landed for an eighth time. The booster and capsule for NS-17 are dedicated to flying cargo missions, with Blue Origin rotating it with another booster and capsule for crew missions. The company expects to launch its second crew flight before the end of the year.

While the company has not disclosed pricing, New Shepard competes with Virgin Galactic in the realm of suborbital space tourism. Bezos last month said Blue Origin has sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets for future passenger flights.

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