After 14 months, a new and improved New Shepard flies again

13 December, 2017, 16:36 | Author: Darnell Taylor

When Blue Origin last flew its New Shepard system, the spacecraft intentionally triggered its abort system 45 seconds after launch. Tuesday's successful test could allow "test passengers" to begin flying on the vehicle in the spring or summer of 2018.

With those three successful tests of the same booster under its belt, Blue Origin embarked on its fourth test, which again tested the New Shepard's ability to launch and land successfully. The pieces then fall back to Earth: The capsule lands its crew gently with the help of parachutes, while the rocket does a powered landing, using its engine to lower itself slowly to the ground.

The New Shepard crew capsule after landing.

"Added Bezos: "#NewShepard had a successful first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0 today.

It was expected the exhaust from the pusher system would impact on the booster.

It is hoped that the flight version of the capsule will be capable of carrying six astronauts and its 530 cubic feet (15 cubic meters) of interior volume will allow space tourists to float about the cabin to peer out all of those expansive windows before returning to Earth. However, it continued to fly and then successfully landed, along with the crew capsule, which was the primary goal of the test.

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While those latter tests were webcast by Blue Origin, the company opted to keep their return to New Shepard testing out of the media spotlight.

Even after the test was conducted, only a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notice provided an official confirmation the vehicle had flown.

Details are sketchy. Blue Origin, which is run by billionaire Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has not released any information about the test. The Crew Capsule 2.0 craft flew atop a New Shepard reusable booster, traveling up to an altitude of over 322,000 feet.

Crew Capsule 2.0 is the latest experimental iteration of the capsule that will eventually carry passengers into space. The booster achieved Mach 2.94 on ascent & Mach 3.74 on descent. In addition, the flight also included 12 commercial, research, and education payloads.

"Today's flight of New Shepard was a tremendous success", Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said in a statement. It was the company's first test flight since a dramatic launch October 5, 2016, that simulated an in-flight abort and its first using a new, upgraded booster and a crew capsule equipped with windows. The sub-orbital rocket took off from the company's facility in West Texas around noon ET, a source at Blue Origin confirmed to The Verge.

"Congratulations to the entire Blue Origin team on a job well done and to our payload customers that gathered important data on the suborbital environment".

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