Called New Shepard, the vehicle consists of a main booster rocket and a six-seater capsule on top, standing 60ft (18 metres) tall.
HOW NEW SHEPARD WORKS
The New Shepard system will take astronauts to space on suborbital journeys.
It includes a Crew Capsule carrying six astronauts atop a separate rocket-powered Propulsion Module, launched from the firm’s West Texas Launch Site.
Following liftoff, the combined vehicles accelerate for approximately two and a half minutes.
The Propulsion Module then shuts off its rocket engines and separates from the Crew Capsule. The Propulsion Module will finish its flight, descend to Earth, and autonomously perform a rocket-powered vertical landing.
The Crew Capsule will go on to coast to the edge of space, providing astronauts with a view to the curvature of the Earth and the beauty of our planet.
After descent and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the Crew Capsule will land under parachutes no more than a few miles from the launch site.
In addition, the New Shepard vehicle will provide opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment.
For this, the first test flight of the entire architecture, it was unmanned – but the company hopes to soon start taking customers into space.
The cost of a ticket has not yet been announced, but estimates suggest it will be around £130,000 $200,000 – similar to a flight on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
The difference, however, is that while Galactic relies on using a plane to slowly rise into the atmosphere, New Shepard takes off straight up and lands back on the ground.
This is known as vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL).
And Blue Origin is also much more secretive – with this successful test flight taking many by surprise.
In video released by Blue Origin, the booster – using liquid hydrogen and oxygen – lifts the New Shepard vehicle to an altitude of 58 miles (94km).
This is four miles (six kilometres) short of the official boundary of space – the Karman Line – although there does not seem to be any problems with reaching this boundary in future.
Once it reached its peak altitude, accelerating at 3Gs, the booster separated from the capsule.
‘The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect,’ Mr Bezos said in a blog post.
‘Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.’