Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft exceeded the expectations of founder Jeff Bezos after surviving “the toughest test yet” of the rocket’s abort system.
The company live streamed the launch on October 5 at 10:45 a.m. EST . It intentionally triggered the spacecraft’s escape system about 45 seconds after liftoff. The procedure propelled the crew capsule from atop the rocket booster before parachuting safely to the ground.
Before the launch, Bezos was bearish on the odds of the rocket returning to Earth safely. The spacecraft veteran of four past launches would have to withstand 70,000 pounds of force exerted by the capsule escape motor, which would likely throw it off course. Still, Bezos promised that the spectacle would be well worth watching.
“Our next flight is going to be dramatic, no matter how it ends,” Bezos wrote in his blog.
Bezos wrote that he plans to retire the booster and display it in a museum if it returns unharmed. Its steady descent to Earth after reaching the rim of outer space drew words of praise from the Amazon CEO.
The New Shepard rocket’s abort system centers on a motor integrated into the crew vehicle. When the rocket aborts, the motor fires for about two seconds, pushing the crew capsule out of the booster’s path.
Blue Origin’s competitor SpaceX has a dramatically different escape system in its spacecraft Crew Dragon. The escape system for the second version of SpaceX Dragon is located on the side of the engine instead of on the top, reports Inverse. Elon Musk’s company tested the escape capsule in May 2015.