Blue Origin tests new motor during blastoff from Texas facility

Doug Carpenter
July 19, 2018

A team of engineers in West Texas is preparing Blue Origin's suborbital New Shepard booster for launch Wednesday on an uncrewed test flight aimed at demonstrating a key safety feature for space tourists and scientists riding on future rockets soaring to the edge of space. Unlike NASA's Mercury and Apollo spacecraft, which jettisoned their escape rockets before reaching orbit, Blue Origin's is built into the capsule.

Mannequin Skywalker had a smooth landing, Cornell reported. (Blue Origin via You Tube) New Shepard's capsule fires its retros as it touches down for a landing. The rocket performed a "high altitude escape motor test", the company said on Twitter, simulating a high-altitude emergency scenario by igniting the escape booster on the bottom of the passenger, or in this case, payload capsule.

Blue Origin has yet to announce when it will start taking reservations or how much flights will cost. None of those tests have included passengers.


The vehicle's propulsion module boosted the crew capsule on a standard trajectory. 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.

Strapped into reclining seats at launch, the New Shepard passengers will be able to unstrap and briefly float about the cabin near the top of its trajectory when they will experience five to six minutes of weightlessness and enjoy the view from the largest windows ever built into an operational spacecraft. Although some reports suggest the price of a ticket could be in the $200,000-to-$300,000 range, Blue Origin says no price has yet been set and no reservations are yet being taken.

"We haven't started selling tickets yet for the trip to space", said Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin's launch commentator. We haven't released those details. "Just another day at the office", she said. "But we've got our eyes on the prize".


Wednesday's flight will be the ninth by a New Shepard rocket, and the third using Blue Origin's most recent model of the single-stage vehicle, which debuted in December and made its second launch and landing in April.

Blue Origin has completed a sprawling rocket factory near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to build New Glenn rockets and is developing a launch pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


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