Watch Blue Origin's high-altitude abort test during latest rocket launch

Gwen Vasquez
July 19, 2018

Along with the suborbital New Shepard rockets and spacecraft, Blue Origin also is developing a powerful new engine, the BE-4, to help boost satellites into orbit using much larger New Glenn rockets. Maximum ascent velocity was listed at 2,236 miles per hour.

New Shepard performed as expected during today's flight, appearing to ace the test, Cornell said.

New Shepard is the first of a potential line of vehicles for Blue Origin.

Then both the booster and the capsule made picture-perfect landings back at Blue Origin's West Texas test site, within sight of the launch pad. The rocket and crew capsule system is aimed at the suborbital tourism market, allowing paying customers to enjoy into a few minutes of zero-G flight prior to a parachute-assisted landing.

The reusable New Shepard rocket settles to a picture-perfect touchdown. The goal: to test the altitude escape motor, the motor that would engage if astronauts needed to make a fast getaway due to some unforeseen circumstances in space.

The launch included a number of different scientific instruments, medical items, and testing materials, along with Blue Origin's "Fly My Stuff" program, where the company's employees send their own materials into space.

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Mannequin Skywalker had a smooth landing, Cornell reported.

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

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. "We are really curious how microgravity affects the structure and properties of things, and we hope this flight will help us understand the science behind it", said James Yenbamroong, chief executive and founder of mu Space, in a preflight statement. The flight of experiment was arranged Olympiaspace, a European "commercial space agency" that took care of logistical and regulatory matters for the payload.

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

Piloted test flights are expected to start later this year, but no target dates have been announced. 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.

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