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

18 July, 2018, 21:51 | Author: Darnell Taylor

As Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos watched, his Blue Origin space venture sent its reusable New Shepard spaceship to its highest-ever altitude during a successful test of a rocket motor that's meant to be used only in emergencies.

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.

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. 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.

"We'll be doing a high-altitude escape motor test - pushing the rocket to its limits", company representatives said via Twitter today (July 17).

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.

Wednesday's passenger was Mannequin Skywalker, plus science experiments.

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This was the third trip to space for both this New Shepherd rocket booster and the crew capsule, both created to be reusable like SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsules.

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

It's also not yet known how much Blue Origin plans to charge for rides in a New Shepard capsule.

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

Blue Origin has not started selling tickets for seats on commercial New Shepard flights, but Reuters reported last week the flight opportunities are expected to sell for between $200,000 and $300,000. The experiment will record vehicle conditions including cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, and acceleration. This time, the company is also flying a suite of materials from Blue Origin employees as a part of its internal "Fly My Stuff" program.

This year has already been packed with rocket launches, and many of those have come from SpaceX.

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