Monday, 22 October, 2018

Blue Origin launches rocket to space in extreme test of crew capsule

Blue Origin's New Shepard spaceship on pad Blue Origin is preparing its New Shepard suborbital spaceship for a test flight that’s expected to push the envelope. More
Edmund Robinson | 19 July, 2018, 07:45

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET) from the company's West Texas launch site.

The high-altitude escape motor test is created to simulate what would happen if there was a problem with the launch vehicle during ascent. Blue Origin responded to the report, saying the company has not set ticket prices, and does not plan to sell rides until some time after New Shepard makes its first test flight with humans on-board.

The test flight also carried 12 payloads and even a passenger - specifically an instrumented dummy brilliantly named "Mannequin Skywalker".

The ninth mission for the spacecraft was to test the escape motor at high altitude.

However, all tests - from test 2 to test 8 - have seen the booster return for a safe pinpoint landing, followed shortly after by the capsule parachuting to a landing site nearby.

Blue Origin's New Shepard booster on its launch pad in West Texas. There's no denying that SpaceX is leading the private spaceflight industry at the moment, but Blue Origin is still grinding away in the hopes that it can be one of the first to offer its services to high-paying clients.

The reusable New Shepard rocket settles to a picture-perfect touchdown.




"We haven't started selling tickets yet for the trip to space", said Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin's launch commentator.

The solid-fuel "pusher" abort motor, built by Aerojet Rocketdyne with subsystems provided by Blue Origin, is created to quickly ignite on command from flight controllers or an on-board computer if safety software detects an impending booster malfunction, rapidly propelling the capsule and its crew away from the rocket with a jarring burst of acceleration.

More than half a dozen scientific payloads were packed inside as well, plus mementos from Blue Origin employees that were included as part of an internal "Fly My Stuff" program. "Just another day at the office", she said.

Blue Origin is expected to conduct several more uncrewed tests in the months ahead, leading up to the first flight with Blue Origin's test astronauts. 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.

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

Claims in the media - which haven't been verified by Blue Origin - note Jeff Bezos's company is going to charge between $200,000 and $300,000 per ticket for the short suborbital flight.

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