Blue Origin Tests Its New Vehicle, and This One Has Windows

Another step closer to the start of space tourism.

Someone at Blue Origin really likes Star Wars.

The private rocket company founded by richest-person-in-the-world Jeff Bezos launched its New Shepard suborbital rocket on December 12 from the company’s launch pad in West Texas. On board for the test was an instrumented dummy nicknamed “Mannequin Skywalker.”

This version of the six-seat tourist vehicle, which Bezos calls Crew Capsule 2.0, notably included windows, which the company advertises as the largest in any spacecraft. The window port holes had been closed up on previous test flights.

Bezos also touted a new launch pad robot dubbed “Blue2D2.”

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith recently told the new National Space Council that the company hopes to start sending people on suborbital flights “within the next 18 months,” although it wasn’t clear whether he was talking about test flights or paying space tourists. 

Here’s a replay of the launch:

Dec. 19 update: According to a story published in Space News today, Jeff Ashby of Blue Origin said flights of New Shepard with humans on board are a year away.