An experimental suborbital spacecraft has been launched by Blue Origin, a startup owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in an attempt to explore the possibility of commercial space travel.
The craft, called New Shepard, took off from a test facility near Van Horn in Texas on the evening of 29 April 2015. It rose to an altitude of 93 kilometres before the capsule separated and fell back to Earth with a parachute.
Blue Origin used a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuelled rocket to get the capsule into space. That succeeded, with Bezos saying in a statement: "Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return."
But the return of the rocket didn't go so well. "We lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent," Bezos added. "Fortunately, we've already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. We'll be ready to fly again soon."
New Shepard is due to be flown many more times before test pilots will be put on board. Once testing is complete however, it should be able to fly three people or a mix of passengers and payloads into suborbital space.
Blue Origin is just one of a number of companies exploring the possibilities of commercial spaceflight. The best-known is probably Elon Musk's SpaceX, but Boeing, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace all have their eyes set on the heavens.
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