Blue Origin launched its New Shepard rocket on another sub-orbital flight from West Texas Wednesday and as the company inches closer to adding humans on board some employees conducted astronaut operations as if they were launching.
The company — founded by billionaire, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — was targeting after 11:56 a.m. ET to launch New Shepard from its launch site in Van Horn, Texas. After a few delays, the rocket lifted off at 12:50 p.m.
The flight marked the 15th sub-orbital launch for New Shepard.
Blue Origin plans to eventually launch paying customers in the capsule. For Wednesday’s flight, employees stood in for those commercial astronauts taking the final steps before launch but wouldn’t be going along for the ride.
Blue Origin personnel climbed the launch tower, got into their seats, buckled in and conducted a communications check with the Capsule Communicator. The hatch then briefly closed as teams prepared for launch but the astronaut stand-ins then got out before the actual liftoff.
One of those personnel included New Shepard design Senior Director Gary Lai, who is considered “the architect” of the New Shepard capsule and has been with the company for 17 years.
Two of the astronaut stand-ins, including Lai and Blue Origin Vice President of Legal Audrey Powers got inside the capsule and strapped in atop the fully fueled rocket.