Published: Wed, July 18, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Blue Origin’s New Shepard Rocket Aces Important Test

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket will conduct its ninth test flight on Wednesday with a short hop pushing the vehicle to its limits - in order to satisfy safety parameters, whilst also carrying numerous payloads in the capsule.

The New Shepard reusable rocket lifted off from the Washington-based company's suborbital facility in Van Horn, Texas, about 10 a.m.

Blue Origin has now tested its powerful escape system at low, mid level and high altitudes, building confidence the spacecraft and its eventual passengers can, in fact, survive a catastrophic in-fight booster failure.

That second flight saw the New Shepard booster lofting its Crew Module to an altitude of 329,839 feet before returning under powered control to an upright landing - marking the first time a suborbital rocket successfully landed after a straight-up/straight-down flight. One such payload including an experiment funded both privately and by NASA, called Solstar, which tested WiFi capabilities in space.

Blue Origin's New Shepard spaceship blasts off for a high-altitude escape system test.

The high-altitude emergency abort test is created to figure out what may happen when there's a problem with the launch rocket, according to Engadget.

New Shepard's reusable booster comes in for a landing.

"It's an important test in our march towards flying humans into space, which hopefully will be soon", Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, during a company webcast of the test.

Although there weren't any people aboard this test flight, Blue Origin's test dummy, Mannequin Skywalker, was strapped in a chair to measure the gravitation forces a real body might experience during a somewhat violent abort. (Blue Origin via YouTube) The New Shepard capsule makes its descent. Such systems are created to fire quickly and separate the crew capsule from the booster during an emergency.

The hardware used in previous tests has been retired and put on exhibit at Blue Origin's Florida rocket factory, where the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will be built. That first crewed flight could take place before the end of the year.

"Just another day at the office", said Cornell.

Eventually, up to six passengers at a time could get on board the New Shepard spaceship, which flies under autonomous control.

Blue Origin has yet to announce when it will start taking reservations or how much flights will cost. The Reuters news agency, quoting an unnamed source, recently reported that tickets were expected to initially cost between $200,000 and $300,000, making it competitive with rides aboard the winged spaceplane Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is developing. "But we've got our eyes on the prize".

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