Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin has successfully completed another test flight in the Texas desert.
The company’s New Shepard rocket passed its 14th test, carrying a dummy nicknamed ‘Mannequin Skywalker’ 300,000 feet into the air.
The life-sized flight dummy sat in one of the six crew capsule seats to measure the vehicle’s overall performance during the test flight.
Both the New Shepard rocket and the capsule landed successfully.
‘The success of this flight puts us one really big step closer to flying astronauts,’ launch commentator Ariane Cornell said from company headquarters in Kent, Washington.
‘There’s going to be a lot of fun ahead in 2021.’
Blue Origin plans to launch paying passengers – tourists, scientists and professional astronauts – on brief flights over remote desert in west Texas.
It is also working on a bigger rocket, New Glenn, that would blast off from Cape Canaveral as well as a lunar lander for astronauts under Nasa’s Artemis moon programme.
The capsule soaring on Thursday featured the latest crew upgrades: microphones and push-to-talk buttons for the six seats, wall panels to muffle engine noise, a safety-alert system, and temperature and humidity controls to keep passengers comfortable and the big windows free of fog.
The launch and landing team was scaled back because of the pandemic.
New Shepard is named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard. New Glenn honours John Glenn, the first American in orbit.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 and established the launch facility in West Texas in 2015. Like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, it plans to shuttle humans into space for tourist trips and also transport astronauts to the moon.