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Blue Origin Planning Another Rocket Launch Before End of June

Blue Origin's "New Shephard" crew capsule shown descending after a previous flight from near Van Horn, Texas. (Blue Origin)

Billionaire Jeff Bezos said Friday his commercial space company Blue Origin will likely perform another test flight from Far West Texas before the end of June.

The company has been ramping up activity at its secretive test site north of Van Horn, Texas recently, carrying out its third successful test launch from West Texas in April. 

Bezos said in an email the company is gearing up for another flight of its New Shephard space craft that will test what happens when one of the craft's crew capsule parachutes fails.

The crew capsule is designed to pop off a reusable rocket and float gently back to Earth with the help of multiple parachutes after a few brief minutes in space.

Blue Origin plans to test the capsule’s back-up protections in the event of a parachute failure, which Bezos says include a "two-stage crushable structure" that absorbs rough landings and special seats that do the same. 

"We’re planning to demonstrate the redundancies built into the capsule on this re-flight of the vehicle by intentionally failing one drogue and one main parachute during descent," Bezos said. "This should occur around 7 ½ minutes into the flight at an altitude of 24,000 feet."

The historically tight-lipped company has been opening up some as it further develops its technologies. Bezos live-tweeted during the company's last test in April, and he said he will announce when the company has a date set for this next test.

The upcoming flight will mark the fourth time Blue Origin has reused the same rocket, a capability Bezos has previously called a "game changer" in the commercial space industry.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.