Capt. James T. Kirk once told Starfleet member Uhura, “You’re not going to get any farther in a starship than the star system itself.”
As billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos continues to steadily test the interior of Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship, which it’s called the Starship, his aircraft is rapidly approaching that kind of bold new frontier. Bezos tweeted on Friday morning that he had just flown the “Star Trek”-style rocket to an altitude of 62 miles, which marked its highest flight in eight test flights. It was a historic moment for the next frontier for space flight.
I’m posting details from today’s #NewShepard flight, which is @BlueOrigin’s 8th #SLS flight test, because it is still just as thrilling and memorable as any I’ve been privileged to witness during the over 50 flights of #SpaceShipTwo. pic.twitter.com/W5vRJTZ6Gp — Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 6, 2018
During this flight, the New Shepard flew upright at a higher altitude, carrying six passengers on board as it climbed to an altitude of suborbital 46 miles.
Bezos and his Blue Origin crew recorded the flight for posterity. In the following video footage posted on Bezos’s company’s YouTube channel, the spacesuit-clad pilot took advantage of the quick descent to check out the spinning New Shepard around in its seat, which isn’t turned on.
Bezos and his crew also took time to note how small a portion of the Earth is visible from space.
“We are in an era of unprecedented space exploration. In just four short years, our nation has re-entered the stratosphere on three separate flights with Zero G aircraft. It’s a thrilling time and our country has an unprecedented leadership position in the development of deep space missions,” Bezos wrote in a blog post.
“We will now fly to a higher and higher altitude as we continue to strive to accomplish our one and only stated goal of enabling access to space for millions of people. We need to get to at least the moon. It’s just the next frontier and a worthy one.”
Bezos, who made his fortune as founder of Amazon, has long insisted that space travel will take place in the future and will open up new commercial and scientific industries. He is the head of the privately-owned spaceflight company Blue Origin. The company operates test flights in a reusable aerospace vessel, New Shepard, which was designed to be flown safely back to earth. The craft reached a higher altitude than any other manned spacecraft before, reaching 62 miles in 2016. Blue Origin has said that a second operational aircraft will be delivered to space in 2018.
New Shepard is the second vehicle to be developed by Blue Origin. The original, BE-4 engine was deployed to take off from a carrier aircraft for a suborbital test flight in August 2016. According to Bezos, testing has not been entirely successful, and the latest flight test was only “56 percent successful.”
“The next step would be if you could survive the [initial] descent — I’m not sure you could [as a vehicle],” Bezos told Ars Technica in June 2017. “The only thing that’s changed is the thrust at entry. It’s still very dangerous — fire, [explosions].”
Bezos has released few details about how people would get to space with the New Shepard spacecraft. The space tourism firm Virgin Galactic, which has not yet reached space, plans to fly its $250,000 SpaceShipTwo into a near-vertical climb of about 3,000 feet above the Earth’s surface in October 2018. On July 11, 2017, the New Shepard test flight had to abort at an altitude of 120 miles after the rocket failed to ignite properly. The flight is still under investigation.