Blue Origin successfully lands 4th rocket, crew capsule survives crash

Just a few hours ago, private space agency Blue Origin conducted a fourth launch of its New Shepard rocket, once again successfully landing in an upright position after reaching the edge of space. This launch, which took place at roughly 10:30am ET, also saw several 'firsts,' including Blue Origin live streaming the whole event, as well as the crew capsule undergoing an intentional parachute failure to test its ability to survive.

The whole thing can be seen in Blue Origin's video below (jump to the 1 hour, 2 min mark for the actual launch). The rocket stage lifts off and reaches a height of 331,501 feet, then detaches from the un-occupied crew capsule before falling back to Earth. Just as before, New Shepard fires its engines to slow its decent, then touching down on solid ground.

The crew capsule, on the other hand, also falls back to the Earth, but normally relies on several parachutes to slow it to a safe landing speed. But in today's launch, Blue Origin intentionally had one of the main parachutes fail in order to test the capsule's safety in the event of an error.

In a bit of a surprise, the capsule touched down in a cloud of dust, but still survived the harder than usual landing intact. Blue Origin will still need to analyze the capsule to determine exactly how well it performed, but by today's first appearances everything went perfectly.

The capsule the New Shepard rocket carries is designed to hold up to six passengers. Once the space agency gets permission to carry out consumer flights, paying tourists will get to experience roughly 4 minutes of weightlessness before drifting back to Earth. Blue Origin's current goal is to begin flights with test pilots in 2017, and then start taking customers in 2018.

SOURCE Blue Origin