Blue Origin is set to test an improved capsule during a suborbital flight Thursday over West Texas, validating new environmental control systems, cabin displays and passenger communication systems before the Jeff Bezos’ space company does start to fly people.
The test is scheduled to launch Thursday at 11:57 a.m. EST (10:57 a.m. CST; 4:57 p.m. GMT) from Blue Origin’s private launch site north of Van Horn, TX, east of El Paso, the company said.
Blue Origin has announced plans to provide a live webcast of the mission, which will be available at the top of this page.
Powered by a hydrogen-powered BE-3 engine, a single-stage New Shepard booster will take off from West Texas and is expected to propel the capsule to an altitude of over 62 miles, or 100 kilometers, above the internationally recognized border. from space.
The spacecraft will separate from the rocket when both vehicles reach their maximum altitude, then begin their descent to Earth.
The reusable New Shepard rocket will deploy air brakes and re-ignite its engine for a vertical landing at Blue Origin’s commercial spaceport, while the capsule will deploy parachutes and briefly fire its own brake rockets to cushion its landing on the desert landscape at proximity.
Assuming it follows the flight plan from Blue Origin’s previous test launches, the entire mission will last approximately 10 minutes from takeoff until the capsule lands.
This will be the 14th flight of a New Shepard suborbital rocket and capsule since 2015, but the test mission on Thursday is expected to launch a new spacecraft with all the necessary equipment to transport people.
In a statement released ahead of launch, Blue Origin did not confirm that it will pilot a brand new capsule on Thursday, but sources said that was the plan. The new capsule is called “RSS First Step”, with RSS for Reusable Spaceship.
“For this mission, the crew capsule will be equipped with upgrades for the astronaut experience as the program approaches human spaceflight,” Blue Origin said in a statement. “The upgrades include improvements to environmental features such as acoustics and temperature regulation inside the capsule, crew display panels, and speakers with microphone and push button to each seat.
“The mission will also test a number of astronaut safety alert and communication systems. The capsule will be fitted with six seats, including one occupied by Mannequin Skywalker, ”the company said, referring to a test dummy dressed in a flight suit that Blue Origin has stolen in past launches.
Blue Origin also flies more than 50,000 postcards from students around the world, submitted for launch into space through Blue Origin’s non-profit club for the future. The postcards, some of which will fly into Mannequin Skywalker’s pockets, will be returned to students after flying into space.
Founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2000, Blue Origin is in the final stages of testing the New Shepard booster and suborbital capsule before allowing people to ride the rocket into space.
Paid space tourists and commercial and government researchers could be passengers on future New Shepard flights, which will provide customers with around three to four minutes of microgravity when the capsule reaches its peak, or highest point. of its ballistic arc. Previous New Shepard test missions have conducted experiments for NASA and universities.
Blue Origin is leading a team of companies developing a human-rated lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis program, alongside aerospace entrepreneurs Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Industrial teams led by Dynetics and SpaceX are also vying for a NASA contract to build the man-tested lunar lander.
The company is also developing a massive orbital-class rocket called New Glenn, which will launch large satellites from the Cape Canaveral space station in Florida.
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