Although SpaceX gets plenty of attention with its rocket launches and indisputably impressive landings, there are other companies out there tinkering with their own designs for reusable space vehicles.
Take Blue Origin, set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. His team has developed a rocket and capsule that Bezos wants to use for tourist rides into suborbital space within just a couple of years.
The company recently conducted its seventh successful test flight of its New Shepard rocket, with an all-new crew capsule, from its spaceport in West Texas. Determined to throw the focus of the test on the capsule, which features comfier seats and bigger windows than the original design, Blue Origin stuck a mannequin inside and filmed the whole event.
The dummy, called “Mannequin Skywalker” (well spotted, it does sound remarkably like “Anakin Skywalker”), doesn’t do much during the flight. But that’s precisely what you’d expect with a dummy. It’s there apparently to give some scale to those enormous windows and tempt wannabe space tourists into one day parting with large sums of money.
The video, shot entirely from inside the capsule, shows us that the entire experience from launch to landing lasts around eleven minutes. As the capsule reached an altitude of 328,000 feet — around nine times higher than a cruising jet plane — the New Shepard rocket made a successful return to terra firma.
In a tweet, Bezos noted that paying customers will have a lot more fun than the dummy, explaining that “unlike him, you’ll be able to get out of your seat during the zero gee part of the flight.”
Full video of Mannequin Skywalker’s ride to space. Unlike him, you’ll be able to get out of your seat during the zero gee part of the flight. And ignore the pinging sound – it’s just from one of the experiments on this flight. #NewShepard @blueorigin https://t.co/dJ5VEeaWb6 pic.twitter.com/qGQC1vfW7D
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 15, 2017
Indeed, Bezos said in an interview last year that all kinds of shenanigans could take place during the short adventure: “We want people to be able to get out, float around, do somersaults, enjoy the microgravity, look out of those beautiful windows.”
Besides Mannequin Skywalker, the new crew capsule also carried 12 payloads from various customers conducting experiments and gathering data.
The recent test flight also saw the first use of Blue Origin’s landing pad robot, which, in another nod to Star Wars, is calling Blue2D2.
Blue Origin is yet to take bookings or name a price for the tourist flights, the first of which could take place in 2019.