Autor Wątek: [SpaceNews] New Shepard carries research payloads on latest suborbital test flig  (Przeczytany 1328 razy)

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New Shepard carries research payloads on latest suborbital test flight
by Jeff Foust — January 23, 2019

New Shepard lifts off from Blue Origin's West Texas test site Jan. 23 on the 10th test flight of the overall suborbital vehicle development program. Credit: Blue Origin webcast

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle launched on its tenth test flight Jan. 23 as the company edges closer to flying people into space.

The vehicle, flying a mission designated NS-10, lifted off from Blue Origin’s test site in West Texas at 10:05 a.m. Eastern. The capsule reached a peak altitude of 106.9 kilometers before landing 10 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff, about three minutes after the vehicle’s propulsion module made a powered vertical landing.

The New Shepard capsule carried eight experiments provided by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which arranges flights of science and technology demonstration payloads on suborbital vehicles, high-altitude balloons and parabolic aircraft flights. The experiments include microgravity research in topics from fluid dynamics to planetary science, as well as payloads to measure conditions in the vehicle.

The launch was scheduled for last month but postponed because of problems with ground infrastructure at the launch site. Original plans called for the flight to carry nine experiments but one, the Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 payload from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, was not included on the final manifest released by the company, which did not disclose the reason for the change.

“Testing technologies in suborbital space with the help of commercial companies is an important step to advancing them for missions at the moon and at Mars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a recorded statement aired during Blue Origin’s webcast of the flight. “NASA values the partnerships with our Flight Opportunities providers.”

The flight was the fourth for both this capsule and propulsion module, and the first since a July 2018 test flight that demonstrated the capsule’s abort motor. While these vehicles are intended for use only carrying payloads, a new propulsion module rated for human spaceflight was shipped by Blue Origin in late 2018 to West Texas.

“Our next milestone is taking people into space,” said Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, during the webcast. The next capsule to be delivered to the test site from the company’s factory in Washington state will carry people, she said.

“We’re aiming for the end of this year, by the end of this year,” for carrying people to space, she said, “but as we have said before, we are not in a rush. We want to take our time. We want to do this right.”


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New Shepard launches NASA experiments to space, aims for human flights this year
January 23, 2019 Stephen Clark [Spaceflight Now]

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off from West Texas on Wednesday. Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin, the commercial space company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, launched a package of NASA experiments to the edge of space Wednesday from West Texas with a suborbital New Shepard booster, then successfully recovered the reusable rocket and space capsule a few minutes later.

The single stage rocket, powered by a BE-3 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, took off at 10:05 a.m. EST (9:05 a.m. CST; 1505 GMT) from Blue Origin’s test site north of Van Horn, Texas, according to Ariane Cornell, a company sales director who anchored a video webcast of the mission.

After more than a month of delays caused by vehicle issues and bad weather, the New Shepard climbed to an altitude of more than 350,000 feet — nearly 107 kilometers — after firing the BE-3 engine for nearly two-and-a-half minutes. A capsule carrying the NASA research payloads separated from the New Shepard booster moments later, and the pair coasted toward apogee, the highest altitude of the mission, before descending back into the atmosphere.

The booster deployed air brakes to slow its descent, then reignited the BE-3 engine and extended landing legs to touch down on a landing pad around 2 miles (3 kilometers) from its launch location at the sprawling West Texas test site owned by Bezos.

A few minutes later, the capsule parachuted to a landing nearby to conclude the mission, which Blue Origin said lasted around 10 minutes, 15 seconds, from liftoff to capsule touchdown.

The New Shepard’s BE-3 engine fires to slow down for landing. Credit: Blue Origin

Wednesday’s launch was the 10th flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, and the fourth launch and landing by the reusable propulsion module currently used by the company. The first New Shepard was lost in a landing accident in 2015, and the second unit has been retired.

A fourth New Shepard rocket, designed for human flights, is undergoing flight preps at Blue Origin’s facility in West Texas, officials said.

Blue Origin is taking a step-by-step approach to preparing for flights with passengers. The company’s target market for suborbital flights includes wealthy space tourists and working scientists.

Cornell said Blue Origin plans to be ready to carry humans to space by the end of this year.

“We’re aiming for the end of this year — by the end of this year — but as we said before, we’re not in a rush,” she said in the webcast of Wednesday’s launch. “We want to take our time. We want to do this right.

“As you know at Blue Origin, we take the conservative approach, we are patient, we want to build for you guys the safest and most reliable human flight system,” she said Wednesday.

“Believe me, if I could, I would jump on top of that rocket tomorrow,” Cornell said Jan. 8 at an aerospace industry conference. We’ve already had several successful tests with New Shepard, and so I would love to go. But we’re not selling tickets yet. We have not selected a price yet, despite what you might have read … We haven’t determined when we’re going to sell tickets. We are so focused right now on testing New Shepard through and through.”

Blue Origin’s main competitor in the suborbital space tourism market, Virgin Galactic founded by Richard Branson, has hundreds of would-be space fliers who have paid deposits on $250,000 tickets to ride aboard the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane.

Blue Origin’s capsule descends under parachutes. Credit: Blue Origin

Wednesday marked Blue Origin’s first flight since July 18, when engineers demonstrated the vehicle’s high-altitude abort capability.

The capsule’s solid-fueled abort motor fired to quickly accelerate the craft away from the rocket, simulating the escape maneuver passengers would use to quickly get away from a failing booster at high altitude. Blue Origin accomplished a lower-altitude abort demonstration in 2016.

Cornell said Wednesday’s launch, designated New Shepard-10, followed a “nominal flight profile,” the same trajectory to be used for commercial research and space tourist flights.

On such flights, Cornell said passengers can expect to experience three or four minutes of weightlessness, along with spectacular views out of the capsule’s six windows, which Blue Origin says are the largest to have ever flown in space. Up to six passengers will fly on a single launch.

Virgin Galactic flew its air-dropped SpaceShipTwo rocket plane to the edge of space for the first time Dec. 13 with two test pilots at the controls.

The SpaceShipTwo rocket plane reached a maximum altitude of 51.4 miles, or 82.7 kilometers, on last month’s test flight, above the 50-mile mark used by the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration to determine who gets awarded astronaut wings. Blue Origin’s New Shepard flights reach the 100-kilometer (62-mile) Kármán line, the internationally-recognized boundary of space.

Last month’s SpaceShipTwo test flight was the first time a U.S. vehicle carrying people has flown above 50 miles since the last space shuttle mission in 2011.

Virgin Galactic plans to move SpaceShipTwo operations from a test site at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California to the new Spaceport America facility in New Mexico for regular commercial flights later this year.

Blue Origin earning revenue with launches carrying NASA payloads

Eight NASA-sponsored research experiments flew on Wednesday’s New Shepard launch, meaning Blue Origin is already earning some revenue as New Shepard test flights continue preparing for crewed flights.

The experiments include payloads from universities and NASA centers examining the behavior of a “green” non-toxic fuel in microgravity, demonstrating a way to measure fuel levels in microgravity using sound waves, testing technology to cool electronics in space, and measuring the naturally-occurring electromagnetic fields inside and outside the spacecraft.

Other NASA payloads include a pair of planetary science investigations from the University of Central Florida to help scientists better understand how dust particles on other planets might respond to human and robotic contact, and to evaluate the performance of an asteroid sample retrieval mechanism in a low-gravity environment.

New Shepard also carried to space Wednesday an experimental imager that could be used to support future biological investigations on suborbital rockets, and a vibration isolation platform to protect experiments from the shaking and forces encountered in flight.

“These NASA supported experiments will help advance in-space propulsion technologies, habitation systems, science instruments and other capabilities crucial for exploration,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator.


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Bezos emphasizes altitude advantage of New Shepard over SpaceShipTwo
by Jeff Foust — February 20, 2019 [SpaceNews]

Jeff Bezos, seen here at the Space Symposium in 2017, says the higher altitude Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle can fly will put it at an advantage over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which has yet to reach the Karman Line. Credit: Chuck Bigger for SpaceNews

NEW YORK — As Blue Origin prepares to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle, the company’s founder says the altitude the vehicle can reach will put it at an advantage over Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

In an on-stage interview with SpaceNews during a Wings Club luncheon here Feb. 20, Jeff Bezos reiterated statements made by other Blue Origin executives that the company expects to start flying people on New Shepard later this year.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever been saying ‘this year,’” he said of those plans. “For a few years I’ve been saying ‘next year.’”

New Shepard has been going through a flight test program without people on board, including its most recent flight, NS-10, Jan. 23. That test program is “going really well,” he said, citing such milestones as testing of the escape system for the vehicle’s crew capsule. “We’ve tested all the envelope for escape. It’s one of the most complicated things that we’ve done.”

As Blue Origin prepares to start flying people on New Shepard, Virgin Galactic is also edging closer to commercial flights of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle. The latest test of the suborbital spaceplane, scheduled for Feb. 20 from Mojave Air and Space Port, was postponed because of winds. The company said it will try again Feb. 22.

Bezos, in the interview, pointed out the altitude difference between the two vehicles. New Shepard has typically exceeded 100 kilometers, an altitude known as the Karman Line, on its test flights. SpaceShipTwo reached a peak altitude of 82.7 kilometers on its most recent test flight Dec. 13, its first above the 50-mile boundary used by U.S. government agencies to award astronaut wings.

“One of the issues that Virgin Galactic will have to address, eventually, is that they are not flying above the Karman Line, not yet,” Bezos said. “I think one of the things they will have to figure out how to get above the Karman Line.”

“We’ve always had as our mission that we wanted to fly above the Karman Line, because we didn’t want there to be any asterisks next to your name about whether you’re an astronaut or not,” he continued. “That’s something they’re going to have to address, in my opinion.”

For those who fly on New Shepard, he said, there’ll be “no asterisks.”

Bezos emphasized in his remarks that while “we’re in very good shape” in the New Shepard development program, he’s not driven by schedule. “I do keep reminding the team — I’m relentless on this — that it’s not a race,” he said. “I want to fly this year with humans, but we will fly when we’re ready.”

In an interview that also touched on the company’s New Glenn orbital launch vehicle and the BE-4 engine that will power it, Bezos explained how New Shepard will fit into that overall development plan.

“The strategic objective of New Shepard is to practice,” he said. “A lot of the subcomponents of New Shepard actually get directly reused on the second stage of New Glenn.” That includes, he noted, a variant of New Shepard’s BE-3 engine that will be used on the second stage of New Glenn.

“All of those systems will get a tremendous amount of practice with that suborbital mission and will be carried over directly to the upper stage” of New Glenn, he said. “The lessons learned on things like landings and operability and reusability, all those things from the New Shepard program, those also get incorporated into the New Glenn booster.”

He also tied New Shepard to the early barnstorming era of aviation, where such flights built up expertise to allow the aviation industry to grow in the early 20th century. “That’s going to be our barnstorming,” he said of New Shepard.


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Blue Origin announces next New Shepard suborbital flight
by Jeff Foust — May 1, 2019 [SN]

A New Shepard booster comes to a rest Jan. 23 in West Texas after carrying its capsule and eight NASA experimental payloads to a peak altitude of 106.9 kilometers. It was the capsule and booster’s fourth mission and the 10th test flight overall for the New Shepard program since 2015. Credit: Blue Origin

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin plans to conduct the latest test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle May 2 as the company, and others in the industry, seek ways to allow NASA-funded researchers to fly with their payloads on such missions.

The company announced on Twitter May 1 that the 11th flight of the New Shepard vehicle is scheduled for May 2 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern from the company’s test site in West Texas. The announcement came a couple hours after the publication of a Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, by the Federal Aviation Administration restricting airspace surrounding the test site for a four-day period starting May 2. Such restrictions have, in the past, been associated with New Shepard tests.

The flight, the first by the vehicle in more than three months, will carry 38 microgravity research payloads, Blue Origin tweeted. The company did not respond to an email request for information about the upcoming test.

NASA separately announced May 1 that will have nine payloads on the flight through its Flight Opportunities program for suborbital experiments. The payloads include 3D printing experiments and biomedical research as well as testing of a centrifuge that can simulate lunar and Martian gravity conditions.

The vehicle will also include a “standardized framework” of flight hardware that will be flight tested for future student-designed space experiments. “This opens the door to flying more experiments for more schools, and that means exposing more teachers and students to the promise of spaceflight,” said Elizabeth Kennick, president of Teachers In Space, the organization that developed the hardware, in the NASA statement.

This New Shepard flight, like previous New Shepard tests, is not expected to carry people on board. Future research flights, though, could have the opportunity to carry human-tended payloads, as well as those on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Under the Flight Opportunities program, however, researchers cannot fly along with their payloads, limiting human-tended payloads to those can be run by the staff of the launch provider. Those companies, though, are looking to expand the number of people eligible to fly with their payloads.

“We have potential customers approaching us with these needs,” said Audrey Powers of Blue Origin during a meeting of the regulatory and policy committee of the NASA Advisory Council May 1.

She said both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have started discussions with NASA about expanding the scope of the current Flight Opportunities program to include flying human-tended payloads. The committee discussed a set of findings and recommendations at its meeting about issues that could lead to human-tended payloads.

“The current Flight Opportunities program today allows Blue Origin to fly its employees and tend Flight Opportunities payloads,” Powers said. “We want to expand or broaden that so somebody besides a Blue Origin or Virgin employee can fly and tend those payloads.”

This is not the first time NASA has considered supporting human-tended payloads for Flight Opportunities. In 2013, then NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced at a suborbital research conference that the agency would allow researchers to fly with their payloads, but the agency didn’t follow through with developing guidelines for that.

In December 2017, Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for space technology at the time, said that the agency would again consider human-tended payloads, proposing a process similar to what it uses for flying people on commercial parabolic aircraft flights. NASA hasn’t provided an update on those efforts since then.


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Blue Origin reaches space again on latest New Shepard test flight
by Jeff Foust — May 2, 2019 [SN]

Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle lifts off on its latest test flight, NS-11, May 2. Credit: Blue Origin webcast

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard suborbital vehicle on its latest test flight May 2, a flight that the company says brings it one step closer to flying humans later this year.

The New Shepard vehicle lifted off on the NS-11 mission at approximately 9:35 a.m. Eastern from the company’s test site in West Texas. The vehicle flew what the company called a “nominal” test profile, with the crew capsule separating from the propulsion module and reaching a peak altitude of 105.6 kilometers before landing 10 minutes later under parachutes. The propulsion module made a powered vertical landing on a nearby landing pad.

The vehicle carried 38 microgravity research payloads, the most ever on a single New Shepard flight. That included nine payloads from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, ranging from 3D printing to biomedical experiments. Six payloads came from a research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, three from Arizona State University and another from a high school in Huntsville, Alabama.

The flight was the fifth for this combination of crew capsule and propulsion module, and the 11th in the overall test program, dating back to April 2015. The flight, like all the previous missions, did not have people on board.

However, the company used the webcast of the flight to affirm previous statements that they plan to start flying people this year. “We’re taking one step closer to flying people on board New Shepard later this year,” Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin and commentator for the company’s webcast of the launch, said. She later described the experience customers will have “when you guys come down later this year to go flying on New Shepard.”

Blue Origin, though, has yet to disclose details such as when it plans to start selling tickets for those flights, and for how much. Cornell said that the capsule that will be used for those initial human flights is “in the barn” at the West Texas site. That capsule is named “RSS First Step,” she said, with RSS standing for Reusable Space Ship and “First Step” referring to it being the first step in the company’s long-term vision of millions of living and working in space.

The company may release more details on that first step, or subsequent ones, May 9. An April 26 tweet from the company read only “5.9.19” and included an illustration of the Endurance, the ship from Ernest Shackleford’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition more than a century ago. Some have speculated that it may be linked to the company’s previously stated interest in the moon, as Shackleford is the name of a crater in the south polar regions of the moon that may harbor deposits of water ice.

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Blue Origin ‘one step closer’ to human flights after successful suborbital launch
May 2, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]

This image from Blue Origin’s webcast of Thursday’s mission shows the New Shepard’s capsule just before touchdown in West Texas. Credit: Blue Origin

Taking another step toward flying space tourists to the edge of space, Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin again flew its New Shepard suborbital booster Thursday with a package of microgravity research experiments.

The single-stage rocket took off from Blue Origin’s privately-operated launch site north of Van Horn, Texas, at 9:35 a.m. EDT (8:35 a.m. CDT; 1335 GMT).

Named for Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the rocket climbed into a clear sky powered by a hydrogen-fueled BE-3 main engine, which accelerated the vehicle to a speed of more than 2,200 mph (3,540 kilometers per hour) in less than two-and-a-half minutes.

After shutdown of the New Shepard’s main engine, a pressurized crew capsule on top of the rocket separated as the vehicles coasted to a maximum altitude of more than 346,000 feet, or about 105.5 kilometers, according to preliminary flight data.

A batch of 38 microgravity research payloads, including nine sponsored by NASA, were stowed aboard the capsule as it experienced about three-to-four minutes of weightlessness as the suborbital spacecraft arced through the apogee, or high point, of its trajectory and began falling back to Earth.

The New Shepard booster deployed air brakes before reigniting its throttleable BE-3 engine to slow down for a vertical touchdown on four landing legs about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from its launch site at Blue Origin’s sprawling West Texas facility.

Less than three minutes later, the capsule landed with the aid of three parachutes and retro-rockets to complete Blue Origin’s 11th suborbital flight since April 2015.

The New Shepard booster lands in West Texas on Thursday after a successful flight to the edge of space. Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin has flown three versions of its reusable New Shepard rocket. The first rocket was lost in a crash on landing in 2015, and the second unit flew five times before retirement. A third New Shepard vehicle, which flew Thursday, has completed five successful missions.

Blue Origin delivered a fourth New Shepard propulsion module to the West Texas test site late last year from the company’s factory in Kent, Washington. Officials said the fourth iteration of the New Shepard is the rocket that will carry people.

Blue Origin has not publicly disclosed when the latest New Shepard vehicle will debut, or which flight will be the first include human passengers.

Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s head of astronaut strategy and sales, said that Thursday’s launch and landing — a mission designated New Shepard 11, or NS-11 — moves the company “one step closer” to flying human passengers.

“Over the next couple of months, toward the end of this year, we are going to be flying humans on top of this rocket,” said Cornell, who hosted Blue Origin’s live webcast of Thursday’s flight.

The crew capsule launched by the New Shepard booster will have six seats, each with its own window to give passengers expansive views during flight.

The New Shepard is a stepping stone to Blue Origin’s larger ambitions, which include the development of a heavy-lift orbital-class rocket named the New Glenn. The inaugural launch of the New Glenn rocket from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for 2021.

Blue Origin’s chief competitor in the commercial suborbital spaceflight market is Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson.

Virgin Galactic’s suborbital rocket plane, known as SpaceShipTwo, has completed two flights above an altitude of 50 miles (80 kilometers), both with people on-board.

The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded commercial astronaut wings to Rick Sturckow, Mark Stucky, Dave Mackay, Mike Masucci and Beth Moses, the  five Virgin Galactic employees who flew on the first two SpaceShipTwo flights to the edge of space. Like the U.S. Air Force and NASA, the FAA awards astronauts wings to individuals who fly above an altitude of 50 miles.

The SpaceShipTwo vehicle is dropped from a carrier jet high in the atmosphere, then fires a rocket motor  to climb to its peak altitude. On commercial space tourist flights, Virgin Galactic expects SpaceShipTwo to reach at least 50 miles, similar to the height achieved on the craft’s two most recent suborbital test flights in December and February.

Blue Origin says its New Shepard vehicle, which uses a much different flight profile, is designed to fly above the 62-mile-high (100-kilometer) Kármán line, the internationally-recognized boundary of space.

While Virgin Galactic has a roster of hundreds of would-be space tourists who have paid deposits for the $250,000 ticket to ride on SpaceShipTwo. Blue Origin has not announced a ticket price yet.


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New Shepard sets reusability mark on latest suborbital spaceflight
by Jeff Foust — December 11, 2019 [SN]

Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle lifts off Dec. 11 on the NS-12 suborbital mission. Credit: Blue Origin

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle made its first flight in more than seven months Dec. 11 as the company inches closer to flying people to the edge of space.

The NS-12 mission lifted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas test site at 12:53 p.m. Eastern after a day’s delay because of poor weather. The ten-minute flight reached a peak altitude of about 104.5 kilometers, with the vehicle’s propulsion module and crew capsule making separate, successful landings.

The flight was the sixth for this combination of propulsion module and crew capsule, a record for the company. The second New Shepard propulsion module flew five consecutive missions before it was retired for the one being used on this series of flights.

The payloads on New Shepard include eight experiments that are part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program that provides access to suborbital vehicles. Those experiments range from one from the University of Florida to study changes in gene expression in plants during microgravity to the Orbital Syngas Commodity Augmentation Reactor, or OSCAR, from the Kennedy Space Center to test converting trash into a mixture of gases.

Other payloads were more educational in nature. The vehicle carried two student art projects selected in a competition run by Blue Origin and rock band OK Go. It also hosted thousands of postcards submitted by students through the company’s nonprofit arm, Club for the Future, an effort to encourage students to pursue science and engineering careers. The space-flown postcards will be returned to the students after the flight.

The flight was the first for New Shepard since early May, as the company has moved deliberately towards eventual crewed flights. While company officials said early in the year they expected to fly people by the end of 2019, Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, backed away from that goal by this fall.

“I’m never going to give up pressure on the team to actually try and go get it done this year,” he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference Oct. 2. “Is it likely? Probably not, because 2019 is rapidly coming to a close.” He said then the company had at least two more uncrewed test flights before starting crewed flights.

The company reiterated that during this flight. “All in all, today’s flight represents yet another step in verifying New Shepard, the system in total, for human spaceflight,” said Blue Origin’s Ariane Cornell during the company’s webcast of the NS-12 mission. “We’ve got a couple more flights before we get there, but we are going to take our time, step by step.”


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Blue Origin launches New Shepard on 12th test flight
December 11, 2019 William Harwood [SFN]

Blue Origin’s New Shepard booster blasts off Wednesday from West Texas. Credit: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin launched a reusable New Shepard rocket Wednesday, boosting an unpiloted capsule on a successful up-and-down flight to space in the 12th test of a spacecraft designed to carry “space tourists” and other commercial astronauts on brief forays above the atmosphere.

Running a day late because of bad weather — and delayed a few more hours by fog — the hydrogen-fueled New Shepard rocket lifted off from Blue Origin’s west Texas flight facility at 12:53 p.m. EST, accelerating into a partly sky atop a brilliant jet of fiery exhaust.

The stubby rocket’s BE-3 engine propelled the capsule to a velocity of 2,227 mph, releasing the New Shepard capsule two minutes and 45 seconds after launch to soar on its own to an altitude of about 343,061 feet, or 65 miles.

NASA, the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration consider 50 miles the “boundary” between the discernible atmosphere and space while the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, an international governing body for aviation-related sports and records, puts the threshold at 100 kilometers, or 62 miles.

The New Shepard capsule was designed to exceed both of those standards. Arcing over and falling back to Earth, on-board experiments — and, eventually, people — will experience about five minutes of weightlessness before the capsule plunges back into the thick lower atmosphere, descending to a relatively gentle touchdown under three large parachutes.

Mission duration, from launch to landing, was 10 minutes and 16 seconds.

“As we move towards verifying New Shepard for human spaceflight we are continuing to mature the safety and reliability of the vehicle,” Blue Origin said in a news release.

The New Shepard booster lands Wednesday at the end of its sixth trip to space and back to Earth. Credit: Blue Origin

The booster for this week’s launch was making its sixth flight in a row. After releasing the New Shepard capsule, the booster, falling tail first back to Earth, deployed braking fins, restarted its engine and unfolded landing legs and settled to a pinpoint touchdown on a concrete pad near the launch gantry seven minutes and 25 seconds after liftoff.

For New Shepard’s 12th test flight, on-board payloads included a NASA experiment to test  techniques for using gas mixtures from “common waste” on deep space missions to provide propulsion or life support. Another experiment, built by students at Columbia University, was designed to study the impacts of microgravity on cell biology. No other payload details were provided.

Also on board: two art projects by winners of a competition open to high school and middle school students and thousands of postcards submitted by young people around the world as part of Blue Origin’s “Club for the Future,” a non profit intended to help motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

This week’s flight was Blue Origin’s ninth carrying science payloads. But the goal of the program is to launch commercial passengers, either space tourists, researchers or both. The capsule can accommodate six passengers and features the largest windows ever put in a spacecraft to provide truly panoramic views of Earth and space.

But it is not yet known when the company will launch its first commercial astronauts, how much tickets might cost or whether Bezos plans to take a ride into space himself.

Blue Origin’s capsule landed under parachutes. Credit: Blue Origin

Virgin Galactic, a company founded by fellow billionaire Richard Branson, is developing a different type of sub-orbital spacecraft — a winged rocket plane — to carry science payloads and paying customers on up-and-down flights to the lower reaches of space.

Virgin Galactic has launched two sub-orbital test flights above 50 miles, the first with two test pilots on board and the second with two pilots and a company flight engineer. A date for the first commercial flight has not been announced, but Branson has said he plans to be aboard whenever it flies.

Bezos founded Blue Origin to develop both sub-orbital and larger orbit-class New Glenn rockets using a powerful new engine, the BE-4, to help boost satellites into orbit. The engines also will be used by United Launch Alliance’s upcoming Vulcan rocket, intended to replace workhorse Atlas and Delta boosters.

Blue Origin is building a huge rocket factory just outside the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to manufacture New Glenn boosters and is developing a launch pad at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The company also is competing for a NASA contract to build a lunar lander for the agency’s Artemis moon program, partnering with aerospace heavyweights Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.


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Odp: [SpaceNews] New Shepard carries research payloads on latest suborbital test flig
« Odpowiedź #8 dnia: Październik 30, 2020, 02:02 »
New Shepard returns to flight with successful suborbital mission
by Jeff Foust — October 13, 2020

Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle lifts off Oct. 13 on its first flight in 10 months. Credit: Blue Origin webcast

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle made its first flight in 10 months Oct. 13, carrying a dozen payloads for NASA and other customers to the edge of space and back.

The vehicle lifted off from the company’s West Texas test site on a mission designated NS-13 at 9:36 a.m. Eastern. The vehicle flew as expected, reaching a peak altitude of about 105 kilometers. The vehicle’s booster made a powered landing seven and a half minutes after liftoff, followed by the crew capsule’s landing by parachute nearly three minutes later.

The flight was the first for New Shepard since the NS-12 mission in December 2019. A launch attempt Sept. 24 was first delayed by cloudy conditions and later scrubbed because of what the company termed a “potential issue with the power supply” for the experiments on board the vehicle. An unspecified technical issue the next day prompted an extended delay.

The NS-13 mission carried a dozen science and technology demonstration payloads, including NASA’s Deorbit, Descent, and Landing Sensor Demonstration. That experiment, funded by NASA’s Tipping Point technology development program, is part of an agency project called Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution (SPLICE) to develop systems that could be used by future lunar landers for precision landings in terrain not accessible with existing systems.

“Today’s flight was inspiring. Using New Shepard to simulate landing on the moon is an exciting precursor to what the Artemis program will bring to America,” Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said in a statement after the flight. Blue Origin is one of three companies with NASA Human Landing System awards to study lunar landers for the Artemis program.

The experiment is the first to fly on the exterior of New Shepard, mounted near the ring fins at the top of the booster module. “We’ve been seeing more demand for putting payloads on the outside of the rocket,” Erika Wagner, payload sales director at Blue Origin, during a webinar about the company’s suborbital research opportunities organized by the Canadian Space Agency in August.

That included, she said, payloads like the NASA experiment to test precision landing. “Coming down from 100 kilometers towards the Earth is like coming from low lunar orbit down to the lunar surface.”

The other experiments on the flight were in the crew capsule, such as a test of a plant growth system for use in microgravity developed by Space Lab Technologies and the University of Colorado at Boulder, and an experiment from the Southwest Research Institute to test sampling regolith from the surface of asteroids. The capsule also carried thousands of student postcards from Blue Origin’s nonprofit education arm, Club for the Future.

Blue Origin intends to ultimately fly people on New Shepard, but has not set a timetable for doing so. Early last year the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, suggested crewed flights could begin later that year, but Blue Origin executives later said they slowed down work on the program. In February, company officials, speaking on background, anticipated needing three to four more uncrewed missions before they would be ready to start flying people.

The company said little about their human spaceflight plans during a webcast of the flight, beyond discussing how the interior of the crew capsule is intended to accommodate six people and rehearsals of how people will board the capsule and go through pre-flight preparations. Company representatives said during the webcast they expected to need “just a couple more flights before we start to put humans on board.”

At the Canadian webinar, Wagner said Blue Origin would continue to fly payload-only missions. The company was studying new opportunities, such as “partial-g” flights where reaction control thrusters would spin up the capsule after separation to simulate lunar gravity conditions. “We’ve been talking to investigators about a wide range of experiments” that could be flown on such flights, she said, with the first such flight planned for “2022-ish.”

She declined to give a schedule at the event of future New Shepard payload flights, but noted the company was flying two to three missions a year with payloads, suggesting that rate would continue. “If there is more demand, we’ll fly more.”


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Odp: [SN] Blue Origin launches New Shepard vehicle intended
« Odpowiedź #9 dnia: Styczeń 16, 2021, 04:34 »
Blue Origin launches New Shepard vehicle intended for crewed flights
by Jeff Foust — January 14, 2021

Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle lifts off on a test flight Jan. 14. Credit: Blue Origin

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin flew a new model of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle Jan. 14, a flight the company says brings it “really close” to finally flying people.

The New Shepard vehicle lifted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas test site at 12:17 p.m. Eastern. The vehicle’s crew capsule, separating from its booster about two and a half minutes after liftoff, reached a peak altitude of 107 kilometers before landing under parachutes 10 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff. The capsule landing came a few minutes after the booster made a powered landing at the edge of its landing pad.

The flight was the first for this capsule, called “RSS First Step” by Blue Origin, as well as for the booster. The capsule featured several modifications intended to support human spaceflight, such as seats, new communications systems and displays, and environmental control systems to regulate temperature and humidity. “It’s all about the upgrades for the astronaut experience,” said Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut and orbital sales at Blue Origin, during the webcast.

Unlike several previous New Shepard flights, this vehicle did not carry science payloads. It did fly 50,000 postcards submitted by students through Club for the Future, a nonprofit affiliated with the company.

The company intends to use this spacecraft for future crewed flights. “This will be used for astronaut missions,” said Patrick Zeitouni, director of advanced development programs at Blue Origin, on the webcast.

Exactly when those crewed flights will begin remains unclear, though. In February 2019, company founder Jeff Bezos said he expected the company to begin flying people by the end of that year, but by October the company said it was slowing down those plans to ensure the vehicle was ready.

Blue Origin performed a single New Shepard test flight last year, in October, after which the company said it needed “just a couple more flights before we start to put humans on board.”

During the webcast, company representatives offered few details about those human spaceflight plans, or even when the company would start selling tickets for commercial flights. Much of the webcast was devoted to discussion of other Blue Origin activities, such as testing of its BE-4 engine and work on its lunar lander concept for NASA’s Human Landing System program.

After the safe landing of the capsule, though, Cornell was optimistic the company would soon start flying people. “We’re getting really close to flying humans. We’re getting there,” she said. “The success of this flight puts us one really big step closer to flying astronauts.”


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Odp: [SFN] Blue Origin tests passenger accommodations on suborbital launch
« Odpowiedź #10 dnia: Styczeń 16, 2021, 04:42 »
Blue Origin tests passenger accommodations on suborbital launch
January 14, 2021 Stephen Clark [SFN]

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off from West Texas on Thursday. Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin says it is “very, very close” to flying humans on suborbital launches to the edge of space after a successful test flight of a human-capable rocket and capsule Thursday.


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Odp: [SFN] Blue Origin tests passenger accommodations on suborbital launch
« Odpowiedź #10 dnia: Styczeń 16, 2021, 04:42 »