Friday's launch follows closely on the heels of another milestone for Washington-based Blue Origin. Earlier this month, the company conducted a test of the rocket engine that will blast the Space Vehicle to orbit, powering it up to its maximum 100,000 pounds of thrust on a stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Is there a special reason why these tests are occurring in West Texas? One speculation is that ISP improves in thinner air. Not all that much though, but every little bit helps. Mass is the big enemy, so if you can decrease mass, you make the job easier.
The New Shepard vehicle is a single stage to orbit design carryover from earlier work on Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.