Spaceflight Insider

Blue Origin’s latest flight follows others in carrying NASA payloads

Blue Origin suborbital launch vehicle and capsule during test flight. Photo Credit: Blue Origin

Archive Photo Credit: Blue Origin

The tenth New Shepard Mission, NS-10, from privately-funded Blue Origin soared off the pad at 9:08 a.m. CST (10:08 a.m. EST / 15:08 GMT) on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at the company’s launch facilities located in Culberson County, Texas. The mission included several experiments flown on behalf of NASA and was, by current reports, a success.

New Shepard launch vehicle image credit Blue Origin

New Shepard. Image Credit: Blue Origin

At T-0, the BE-3PM engine activated, propelling the vehicle off the pad with 110,000 pounds of thrust, accelerating it beyond Mach 3.

About a minute into the flight New Shepard reached maximum dynamic pressure, with aerodynamic pressures on the vehicle reached their maximum.

At two and a half minutes into the flight, the vehicle experienced main engine cutoff with the vehicle reaching its apogee (the farthest point in its ascent) approximately five minutes after it had left the pad. Upon reaching this point in its sub-orbital flight the vehicle began its descent back to Earth culminating with a soft landing at around 10:16 a.m. local time. 

According to a tweet the company posted the mission appeared to be “wholly successful.” This feeling appears to be validated by a tweet issued by NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

Congratulations to on a successful flight today of the crew capsule! We are thrilled to work with our commercial partners to develop innovative space technologies through ‘s Flight Opportunities program.

The New Shepard is the company’s reusable flagship craft, having flown nine successful flights before today’s flight. Testing of the rocket began in 2015, with the first flight taking place. On Nov. 23, 2015. On its maiden flight the booster reached an altitude of 62 miles (101 km). After reaching its apogee, the vehicle successfully performed a powered soft-vertical landing. It was the first time a launch vehicle had successfully landed vertically after reaching the Karman Line (62 miles above Earth’s surface). 

Since that first flight, the company has made four successful flights with the New Shepard 2 vehicle, and three successful flights thereafter with the reusable New Shepard 3.

With today’s liftoff, seven different NASA-sponsored payloads were sent to space. These payloads include science experiments from The University of Florida, Purdue University, The University of Central Florida, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Carthage College Space Sciences Program, Controlled Dynamics Inc., and Johns Hopkins University.

These payloads were flown as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. A division of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the Flight Opportunities Program aims at the growth of the United States commercial spaceflight industry by way of suborbital flight testing and capability development, as well as small launch vehicle technology development. Delivering the experiments to suborbital flight, New Shepard serves as a cost-effective scientific platform for these institutions to test their payloads in a micro-gravity environment.

NASA has been utilizing vehicles produced by newer Launch Service Providers (LSP) on recent scientific missions. Just last month, Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launched from its New Zealand launch site acting as NASA’s ELaNa 19 mission. The mission was completed successfully when the vehicle’s kick stage successfully deployed 13 CubeSats.

Before today’s successful launch, an attempt had been made for NS-10 to fly in late 2018, but was delayed due to a ground structure issue, as well as a wind violation. The announcement of the mission’s new target date was made on Jan. 20.

Founded in 2000 by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is a privately-funded spaceflight service provider. Headquartered in Kent, Washington, the company is funded by Bezos’ selling of Amazon stock. Its New Shepard spacecraft began development in 2010.

VIdeo courtesy of Blue Origin

 

 

 

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Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.

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