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Blue Origin flies new space capsule, posts video of new Alabama rocket engine plant

Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine (N2e/WikiCommons)

Blue Origin flew its New Shepard rocket with a new capsule on top successfully to space and back to a safe ground landing Thursday, moving the company closer to commercial launches for the public, and it released a video with a rare look at its new Huntsville engine plant.

The six-seat capsule carried only Mannequin Skywalker to carry data, but it will carry space tourists later on suborbital flights the company expects to raise revenue and spread excitement about space. The capsule that launched today featured upgrades to its acoustics, temperature regulation, crew display panels and push-to-talk communications at each of its passenger seats.

Seeing the inside of Blue’s Huntsville engine plant is rare in part because of federal law bans photography of technology that might be copied by foreign competitors. Guide Jacki Cortese toured the huge plant where Blue Origin is developing and building its BE4 engine and showed some of the techniques used in modern rocket production.

The BE4 engine will lift Blue Origin’s large New Glenn rocket and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan booster. Each engine will be test-fired at a refurbished Saturn rocket engine test stand at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The launch occurs at about 51 minutes into the video.

Today’s Blue Origin video also included a tour of nearby Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and Mannequin Skywalker wore Space Camp wings on its flight suit.

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