The commercial space launch company Blue Origin, in partnership with the U.S. space agency NASA, launched an unmanned reusable suborbital rocket into space Tuesday and landed it on a West Texas launch site.
The 12-minute flight, 100 kilometers to the edge of space and back, was a test of a number of new technologies, including two NASA precision descent and landing sensor systems, which could be used in future landers on the moon and Mars, and are able to intelligently identify and avoid potential hazards on target landing zones.
The launch included Blue Origin’s six-person crew capsule, which is designed with future commercial passengers in mind, including what the company says are the largest windows ever designed for a spacecraft. Once in space, the capsule separated from the launch rocket.
The reusable rocket, named New Shepard after the first U.S. astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, touched down at the Texas launch and landing site with a controlled, engine-powered descent. The capsule landed a short time later using three large parachutes.
The capsule contained a variety of experiments and other payloads, including postcards provided by children from across the country.
Blue Origin is owned by U.S. investor and entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com.