Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin launches spacecraft higher than ever

Blue Origin Test Flight (Blue Origina via AP)

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket company has shot a capsule higher into space than it has ever done before.

The New Shepard rocket blasted off from west Texas on the company’s latest test flight.

Once the booster separated, the capsule’s escape motor fired, lifting the spacecraft to an altitude of 389,846ft – or 74 miles.

  • What is the point of shooting a capsule into space?

It is part of a safety system intended to save lives once space tourists and others climb aboard for suborbital hops.

Wednesday’s passenger was Mannequin Skywalker, an instrumented dummy in a blue flight suit which has flown before, plus science experiments.

The booster and capsule — both repeat fliers — landed successfully. It was the ninth test flight and lasted 11 minutes.

“Crew Capsule looks great even after it was pushed hard by the escape test. Astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing,” Mr Bezos said in a tweet.

  • How close are we to genuine space tourism?

Space tourism has always been on the horizon for Bezos and company.

The New Shepard is a reusable launch system that will reportedly aim to fly six people 62 miles above the Earth's orbit into suborbital space.

This would be high enough to experience weightlessness for a few minutes and parachute back to Earth.

He has named his rockets after Nasa’s original Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

  • How much will it cost?

Blue Origin has yet to officially announce when it will start selling tickets or how much flights will cost.

However, according to a recent report Blue Origin are planning to charge around $200,000 (£154,000) to $300,000 (£231,000) per ticket.

  • When will it be possible to travel to space as a tourist?

Blue Origin have said its space tourism offering will launch into action next year although the company is yet to specify a date.

Mr Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, aims to send people and payloads into orbit from Cape Canaveral. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development.

  • Is Blue Origin the only company dabbling in space tourism?

Bezos faces competition from fellow tech tycoons Richard Branson and Elon Musk.

Virgin Galactic say it has sold around 650 tickets, each of which cost $250,000 (£192,326).

Ticket prices for Musk's spacecraft SpaceX are yet to be announced.

However, in 2012 SpaceX became the only commerical spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.