Blue Origin to push New Shepard safety regime with ninth test

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 18, 2018

The New Shepard suborbital vehicle is scheduled to launch from Blue Origin's West Texas test site Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT; 0900 local Texas time).

These latest tests were also created to push the booster to its limit, which led to Blue Origin noting the potential they could lose the booster, not least during the focused testing on the escape system, centered around a solid motor firing for two seconds to fly the capsule free of a failing booster.

If the test program continues to go well, New Shepard could begin operational flights as early as this year, Blue Origin representatives have said. One company sent up a system created to provide reliable WiFi connectivity in space, while another added a number of textiles to the capsule so they could test their viability for use in space suits.

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.

The reusable New Shepard rocket settles to a picture-perfect touchdown. In addition to Mannequin Skywalker, Blue Origin's in-cabin dummy, there will be scientific experiments, spacesuit material tests, WiFi access testing and more throughout the flight. The next flight, Cornell said, will feature "finished customer interiors" like those that will be used on commercial flights of the vehicle, meant to carry up to six people. Both elements are reusable; the rocket comes back to Earth for a vertical landing, and the capsule floats down softly under parachutes. 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. "We haven't set a price".

But if all goes well, she said, "it's going to be a sweet ride".

Other experiments included one to measure magnetic fields inside the capsule and another to test a vibration isolation platform that could be used by future payloads to further reduce vibrations for "higher precision microgravity studies".

With the production facility at Exploration Park all-but ready to start producing New Glenn hardware, work is also now taking place on the LC-11 and LC-36 pad facilities from which the rocket will be tested and launched from.

Blue Origin's billionaire owner, Jeff Bezos, has grand designs for moving people and commerce into space, and his efforts begin with Blue Origin's rockets.

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