Blue Origin launched its NS-14 New Shepard mission on January 14 carrying a new crew capsule that could ferry customers to space as early as April this year.
The New Shepard booster carrying the new crew capsule was launched at 17:17 UTC from Blue Origin’s launch site in El Paso, Texas. The launch was delayed for 20 minutes as officials assessed mid-level winds over the launch site.
Once launched, the New Shepard booster climbed to an altitude of over 100 kilometers, the generally accepted threshold between Earth’s atmosphere and space known as the Kármán line before the RSS First Step crew capsule was released. The capsule reached a peak altitude of 107 kilometers before returning to Earth touching down safely under its three blue and orange main parachutes 10 min and 10 sec after liftoff.
The RSS First Step, where RSS stands for Reusable Space Ship, will be the first to carry up to six customers at a time to space. The capsule features a crew alert system that provides information about the flight to passengers on a small screen next to each seat, cushioned wall linings with built-in sound suppression, and environmental systems to keep customers comfortable and to ensure the windows don’t fog up during the flight.
In addition to it being the maiden flight of the new crew capsule, the launch was also the first flight for the New Shepard booster, serial number NS4. The launch acted as an uncrewed qualification flight for the NS4 booster which is set to be the first to carry customers to space.
According to information obtained by Michael Sheetz at CNBC, yesterday’s launch will be followed by a second qualification flight in six weeks. If that flight is successful, Blue Origin will push forward with the maiden crewed flight as early as April.