Bezos’ Blue Origin carries out third launch / landing of New Shepard
Third time was the charm, that has to be what NewSpace mogul Jeff Bezos must be thinking today. His company’s New Shepard rocket carried out its third successful launch and landing on Saturday, April 2. With this latest test flight, the Kent, Washington-based company is one step closer toward having tourists roar to sub-orbit within the foreseeable time frame.
According to a report drafted by Loren Grush on The Verge, the flight got underway at 11:18 a.m. EDT (15:18 GMT). Bezos described the third flight of the rocket and spacecraft in simple terms, denoting that this mission went off without a hitch:
Flawless BE-3 restart and perfect booster landing. CC chutes
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 2, 2016
Not everything was the same as on past two flights, however. As was noted on Wired.com, Blue Origin opted to reignite the booster’s engines at a mere 3,600 feet (1,097 meters) off the ground. This provided far less room for mistakes as the rocket plummeted back to Earth.
This tricky move was conducted so as to test out a new algorithm used on the spacecraft that space tourists will use to get their views of the edge of space. According to Space.com, it has not yet been announced how much a ticket on one of these flights might cost.
Like the two prior flights, the unoccupied crew module detached from the booster and returned safely to Earth via parachute. This was not the method that the rocket used to return back to the launch site – it opted to ride fire provided via its engine.
When those first flights take place, perhaps as soon as 2018, as many as six will get the ride of a lifetime as they thunder out of Earth’s atmosphere and into the black of space. These ‘space tourists’ will travel above the Kármán line, which is some 62 miles (100 kilometers) in altitude and is accepted to be the general start of space.
A couple of microgravity experiments also rode the booster as it made its way uphill above the company’s West Texas launch site.
As has become the norm with Bezos and fellow billionaire space entrepreneur Elon Musk, much of the details about the flight was made via the social media platform Twitter.
Musk’s SpaceX has been in a somewhat race with Bezos in terms of the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Whereas New Shepard’s rocket grazes the very edge of space, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 sends payloads to orbit. Both of these company’s are developing reusable systems for one simple reason – to lower costs.
At present, launching anything into space is an expensive proposition. By producing rockets that can be reused, that cost drops dramatically. The Falcon 9 and New Shepard rockets are helping to reshape how the Launch Service Provider business is viewed and conducted.
As noted earlier, this was the third flight that Blue Origin has carried out of its prototype rocket in less than five months. The first was in November of last year, with the last flight of the booster taking place on Jan. 22 of this year (2016).
New Shepard’s propulsion module is powered by a Blue Origin BE-3 rocket engine that uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as propellant. The system bears the name of Mercury 7 astronaut and the United States’ first astronaut Alan. B. Shepard.
Videos courtesy of Blue Origin
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.