Blue Origin has successfully demonstrated its upgraded New Shepard suborbital vehicle for crewed flights. The rocket system’s crew capsule separated from its reusable booster two and a half minutes after liftoff before reaching a peak altitude of 107 kilometers (66.5 miles). It landed with the help of parachutes 10 minutes and 15 seconds after the rocket left the ground. As for the booster, it successfully rotated at 2 to 3 degrees per second, which will give future passengers a 360-degree view of space in the future. It’s New Shepard’s 14th mission overall, but it’s the first for both the redesigned crew capsule and its booster.
The upgraded six—seater crew capsule, called the RSS First Step, comes with new features that’s all about giving the best “astronaut experience” possible. It has speakers in the cabin, along with mics that’ll enable passengers to talk to ground control. Each seat has a crew alert system relaying safety messages to every spacefarer. The vehicle also has cushioned wall linings, sound suppression devices to reduce ambient noise inside the capsule, a cooling system and humidity controls.
According to CNBC, this mission is the first of two “stable configuration” test flights, which means Blue Origin is hoping not to have to make any major changes before its first crewed flight. The news organization also said that the company is planning to launch its first crewed flight in early April.