Blue Origin’s Latest New Shepard Flight is a Success, With Passengers Climbing on Board (and Getting off Again Before it Flew) – Universe Today

In 2000, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos based Blue Origin, a business area firm supposed to change into one of many crown jewels of his monetary empire. Sadly, Blue Origin has misplaced floor lately to firms like SpaceX, which have been pushing the envelope with the event of reusable launch programs, resupply companies, and human-rated spacecraft.

To handle this, Bezos just lately stepped down as CEO of Amazon to dedicate extra consideration to Blue Origin and different tasks. On Wednesday, April 14th, the corporate hit a milestone when their New Shepard spacecraft (named in honor of famed astronaut Alan Shepard) performed its fifteenth consecutive mission (NS-15) to area and again. This “crew rehearsal” mission brings Blue Origin one step nearer to launching crews and vacationers into area.

The mission passed off at Launch Site One, a facility positioned close to Van Horn, Texas. Previous to the launch, two Blue Origin personnel performed rehearsal operations designed to simulate astronaut actions and operations aboard the New Shepard capsule. This consisted of the 2 personnel climbing the launch tower, strapping into their seats, and conducting communications checks with the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM).

On the similar time, two extra personnel served because the tower operations crew and went by way of their very own pre-launch operations. This consisted of making ready the capsule cabin for launch and securing the capsule hatch behind the 2 astronaut stand-ins as soon as they climbed inside. As soon as all of the pre-launch preparations and checks had been full, the astronauts left the capsule and sealed it shut.

In the course of the flight, which started at At 10:15 A.M. CDT (08:15 A.M. EDT; 11:15 A.M. PDT), the capsule was “crewed” by Model Skywalker (the corporate’s check dummy) and carried over 25,000 postcards from Blue Origin’s non-profit group Club for the Future. After the capsule landed, the 2 astronauts rehearsed post-flight procedures, similar to opening the hatch and exiting the capsule.

In the course of the flight, the capsule reached an altitude of 106 km (66 miles), which put it simply barely above the Kármán Line – the official boundary between Earth’s ambiance and “area.” About seven minutes after takeoff, the reusable first stage booster made a powered descent and landed upright on the touchdown pad. Three minutes later, the capsule made a comfortable touchdown with its parachutes deployed.

The SN-15 capsule touchdown with parachutes deployed. Credit score: Blue Origin

Following the landing, the stand-in astronauts went again to the capsule and climbed aboard to apply crew restoration. Your complete flight was the topic of a dwell webcast, which started 60 minutes earlier than launch (posted beneath). “Whereas there are not any astronauts on board right this moment, that was a essential step towards our march towards first human flight,” said flight commentator Ariane Cornell, from the corporate’s headquarters in Kent, Washington.

The mission lasted a complete of 10 minutes and 10 seconds and achieved a most velocity of three,596 km/h (2,234 mph). It was not solely the fifteenth time the New Shepard flew to area, it was the sixteenth consecutive time that the capsule landed profitable, which features a pad escape check in 2012. It’s also prone to be Model Skywalker’s final spaceflight, as it’s being donated to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

By testing crew procedures, they’re one step nearer to clearing the New Shepard for crewed flights, which is able to embody flying paying prospects on brief hops to area. Throughout these flights, crews of six will expertise three minutes of weightlessness and will likely be handled to breathtaking views of Earth from orbit. General, the mission was in step with the incremental method Bezos had in thoughts when he launched Blue Origin.

Blue Origin’s Audrey Powers simulates astronaut ingress on New Shepard Mission NS-15. Credit score: Blue Origin

In the meantime, the corporate is making progress on its New Glenn heavy launch system. Just like the New Shepard, this two-stage car is known as in honor of a pioneering astronaut and of the “Mercury Seven” – John Glenn. Whereas Shepard was the primary American astronaut to go to area – reaching a suborbital altitude of 187 km (116 mi) – Glenn was the primary American astronaut to orbit the Earth.

Recent milestones within the of the New Glenn embody the completion of its first stage mockup simulator, a structural check facility, and the event of {hardware} components (tanks, stage modules, and composite fairings). The maiden flight of the New Glenn is at present focused for late 2022 and can happen from Cape Canaveral’s historical past Launch Advanced 36 (LC-36), which is within the last phases of being rebuilt.

The corporate’s slogan, Gradatim Ferociter (in Latin), actually interprets to “Step by Step, Ferociously.” On this respect, the NS-15 mission and different latest developments are additional steps alongside the street in the direction of fulfilling the dream of area tourism and business launches – the very dream the corporate was based on. Within the meantime, try the total protection of the SN-15 launch, courtest of Blue Origin:

Additional Studying: Blue Origin, Phys.org

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