06 October, 2016
Blue Origin, the commercial spaceflight company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, launched its history-making New Shepard rocket on a suborbital flight created to test its crew capsule's abort system.
The rocket navigated back to the West Texas landing pad shortly after separating from an empty crew capsule, which used a separate escape motor to maneuver itself away before parachutes deployed and it drifted to a safe, dusty landing on the desert floor below. The escape capsule detached from the rocket with a blast about 45 seconds after launch, blue parachutes deployed and it slowly descended to Earth. But the booster appeared remarkably stable throughout the test and continued its ascent.
Writing on his blog before the launch, Jeff Bezos called the flight "our toughest test yet" and said that if the booster survived the ordeal, they would reward it with a retirement party. "What a test!" Blue Origin launch commentator Ariane Cornell said during the live-streamed webcast. New Shepard is created to transport payload and people to suborbital space on short-duration flights. For this particular New Shepard flight, Max Q occurred around 16,000 feet. The aerodynamic shape of the vehicle quickly changes from leading with the capsule to leading with the ring fin, and this all happens at maximum dynamic pressure.
Blue Origin expected to learn something about their booster, namely, whether it can survive an in-flight abort. This was the fifth - and last - flight this specific reusable rocket whose next destination is a museum. "We have stepwise expanded our flight envelope on the booster and crew capsule on every mission".
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Jeff Bezos will get to put the first Blue Origin New Shepard rocket into a museum display after all. "Sadly, that's not likely".
The rocket has launched, gone into sub-orbit and landed its booster at a Texas launch site five times since last November. The biggest surprise from today's test was that the booster actually stayed on course.
Although Blue Origin has tested its launch escape system on the launchpad before, this is the first time such a system has been tested, by anyone, in flight since the 1960s. Seven of the engines will power the New Glenn booster's first stage while a single engine will power the second stage.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Rocket company Blue Origin pulled off a double success Wednesday, coming a step closer to launching people into space. Initial test firings of the BE-4 are expected before or just after the end of the year. SpaceX already has successfully demonstrated both milestones using its Falcon 9 orbital rockets.