It was one of those moments in spaceflight history that took everyone, not least Blue Origin founder and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, by surprise.
During a much publicized launch abort test of the private spaceflight company's New Shepard rocket, Bezos said the booster would likely not survive the event. In a pre-test statement, he said: "This test will probably destroy the booster. The booster was never designed to survive an in-flight escape." Around 45 seconds into the launch, when the launcher undergoes maximum dynamic pressure (a.k.a. "max-Q") the unmanned capsule atop New Shepard would ignite its own solid rocket booster to demonstrate how, in the event of an emergency, a future manned vehicle could throw itself clear of the main rocket and parachute to Earth safely.
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It was assumed that the rocket would be knocked off-kilter and then plunge to Earth, exploding on impact. Instead, the capsule separated, launching itself clear at the 45 second mark, and New Shepard did what it does best. It used its stabilizing thrusters to correct its trajectory and carried out a powered descent, performing a picture-perfect landing moments after the capsule itself landed.
In a new video released by the company, shown above, you can see the dramatic launch abort system at work. In this slow motion footage, you can really see the stability in the New Shepard rocket booster, which seemed nonplussed that it had just been punched and roasted by 70,000 lb of raw thrust.
Watch the whole test, from launch to amazing landing(s), here: