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Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin successfully completes the 17th launch of its New Shepard rocket

Blue Origin completed the 17th launch of its New Shepard Thursday, marking the first mission since founder Jeff Bezos took his own journey to the edge of space. 

The 60-foot-tall rocket came alive at 10:31am ET Thursday when it took off from the firm’s West Texas facility while carrying 18 scientific payloads, 11 of which are from NASA, thousands of postcards made by children and an art installation on the capsule’s exterior.

New Shepard ignited Blue Engine 3, which emitted 110,000 pounds of thrust, and took off towards the sky where it will soar 62 miles above Earth’s surface to the Kármán line, an international definition of space.

The art installation, called ‘Suborbital Triptych, was created by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo who painted three portraits on the capsule’s main chute covers – one of which is of himself.

‘A self-portrait looking up to the skies best explains what this project means to me,’ Boafo said in a pre-launch statement.

‘I grew up knowing the sky was the limit, and now I get to work on a project that goes beyond the sky as we know it.’

The other two paintings depict Boafo’s mother and fellow artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, who is a childhood friend of Boafo’s.

Thursday’s mission is another step for Blue Origin into the space tourism business, which Bezos proved will one day happen after he and three others soared 66 miles above Earth’s surface on July 20.

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard came alive at 10:31am ET Thursday when it took off from the firm’s West Texas facility for the Jeff Bezos-owned rocket’s 17th mission into space

The rocket was slated to take off at 9:35am ET, but issues with loading the payloads kept it grounded for about an hour.

When New Shepard finally took off, it soared at more than 1,700 miles per hour as it climbed toward space and conducted its main engine cut off once it hit 2,000 miles per hour. 

At this time, the rocket appeared as a glowing orbit in the darkness of space.

The cameras on New Shepard shifted down toward Earth, showing a stunning birds eye view of the West Texas desert. 

The art installation, called 'Suborbital Triptych, was created by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo who painted three portraits on the capsule's main chute covers – one of which is of himself

The art installation, called ‘Suborbital Triptych, was created by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo who painted three portraits on the capsule’s main chute covers – one of which is of himself

The other two paintings depict Boafo's mother

The portraits also fellow artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, who is a childhood friend of Boafo's

The other two paintings depict Boafo’s mother and the mother of fellow artist Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, who is a childhood friend of Boafo’s

The 60-foot-tall rocket carried 18 scientific payloads, 11 of which are from NASA, thousands of postcards (pictured) made by children and an art installation on the capsule's exterior

The 60-foot-tall rocket carried 18 scientific payloads, 11 of which are from NASA, thousands of postcards (pictured) made by children and an art installation on the capsule’s exterior 

After the capsule separated, the booster headed back to Earth for what Blue Origin called a ‘precise landing.’ 

Roughly five minutes into launch, the booster was falling back to the launch pad and successfully deployed its parachute to help it slow down before touching down. 

A sonic boom was hear and seconds later, New Shepard touched down on the pad to complete it’s eighth trip to space.

‘Booster touch down, just as if she was landing on the moon,’ the livestream commentator said.

The comment echoes Bezos’ fight with NASA over the lunar landing contract that was awarded to SpaceX instead of Blue Origin.

Bezos filed a lawsuit against the American space agency on August 16 that ‘challenges NASA´s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals.’

The rocket was slated to take off at 9:35am ET, but issues with loading the payloads kept it grounded for about another hour

The rocket was slated to take off at 9:35am ET, but issues with loading the payloads kept it grounded for about another hour

The cameras on New Shepard shifted down toward Earth, showing a stunning birds eye view of the West Texas desert

The cameras on New Shepard shifted down toward Earth, showing a stunning birds eye view of the West Texas desert

Blue Origin was originally in competition with SpaceX and a third firm, Dynetics, for what was expected to be two NASA contracts. 

After Congress trimmed the space agency’s budget, NASA announced in April 2021 that SpaceX’s Human Landing System (HLS) would be the sole contractor.

However, the lawsuit does not seem to have tarnished Blue Origin and NASA’s relationship – Thursday’s mission took nearly a dozen NASA experiments to the edge of space.  

The capsule was fitted with NASA’s Deorbit, Descent and Landing Sensor Demonstration experiment to collect data to reduce risk and increase confidence for successful missions to the moon. 

The Blue Origin capsule followed the booster back to Earth, releasing its three parachutes about eight minutes after launch. 

It carried the payloads and postcards made by children as part of Blue Origin’s Club for the Future into orbit. 

About five minutes into launch, the booster was falling back to the launch pad and successfully deployed its parachute to help it slow down before touching down

About five minutes into launch, the booster was falling back to the launch pad and successfully deployed its parachute to help it slow down before touching down

A sonic boom was hear and seconds later, New Shepard touched down on the pad to complete it's eighth trip to space. 'Booster touch down, just as if she was landing on the moon,' the livestream commentator said

A sonic boom was hear and seconds later, New Shepard touched down on the pad to complete it’s eighth trip to space. ‘Booster touch down, just as if she was landing on the moon,’ the livestream commentator said

Club for the Future, founded in 2019, is a foundation that aims to inspire future generations to pursue a career in STEM.

This is the fourth flight for the New Shepard program this year and the eighth flight for this particular vehicle, which is dedicated to flying scientific and research payloads to space and back.

Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin, said in a statement following launch: ‘After flying more than 100 payloads to space on New Shepard, today’s 8th flight of this vehicle carried NASA-sponsored and commercial experiments, including the second flight of NASA’s lunar landing technology that will one day allow us to further explore the Moon’s surface.

‘We are grateful to NASA for partnering with us once again on this experiment, and we are proud of the Blue Origin team for executing a great flight in support of all our customers.’

New Shepard, which stands 60 feet tall, was specifically designed for Blue Origin’s space tourism venture.

The Blue Origin capsule followed the booster back to Earth, releasing its three parachutes about eight minutes after launch.

The Blue Origin capsule followed the booster back to Earth, releasing its three parachutes about eight minutes after launch.

The capsule seats six passengers and is equipped with reclining seats.

Each of the seats has a window that are said to the ‘the largest to fly into space.’

Cameras line the interior, allowing travelers to share their memories that are truly out of this world.

Thursday's flight comes less than a month from when Bezos took his first flight inside the capsule. He was joined by his brother Mark Bezos (right), Oliver Damen (left)  and  Wally Funk (second from right)

Thursday’s flight comes less than a month from when Bezos took his first flight inside the capsule. He was joined by his brother Mark Bezos (right), Oliver Damen (left)  and  Wally Funk (second from right)

The crew experienced weightlessness for about four minutes, before falling back to Earth to land in Texas

The crew experienced weightlessness for about four minutes, before falling back to Earth to land in Texas

Thursday’s flight comes less than a month from when Bezos took his first flight inside the capsule.

On July 20, the billionaire and his brother Mark traveled 66 miles above the surface.

The pair were joined by 18-year-old Oliver Daemen – the word’s first paying customer to buy his flight – and 82-year-old Wally Funk, who passed NASA’s space program in the 1960s but never made it to space because the women’s flight was canceled.

The crew experienced weightlessness for about four minutes, before falling back to Earth to land in Texas.

While the crew were enjoying their time in space, the booster returned to the landing pad for use on a future flight.

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