Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Science | By Dan Gutierrez

Blue Origin plans high-altitude escape test on launch Wednesday

Blue Origin plans high-altitude escape test on launch Wednesday

This is Blue Origin's ninth mission.

The commercial space company, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is performing another test on its sub-orbital New Shepard spacecraft and launch vehicle. 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. The company just completed its eighth test mission last April.

Then both the booster and the capsule made picture-perfect landings back at Blue Origin's West Texas test site, within sight of the launch pad.

Cornell didn't offer a timetable for crewed flights beyond "soon" during the webcast but said they could begin "after a couple more tests".

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While testing with New Shepard continues, work on Blue Origin's next vehicle, the New Glenn is pressing on, albeit mainly away from the attention of the media. The launch from Blue Origin's test site in West Texas is set to occur at 14:00 UTC - with the test campaign now in the final leg ahead of carrying paying customers.

Blue Origin conducted a successful test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle July 18 that demonstrated its crew capsule escape system. 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. "Mannequin had a smooth, smooth landing". After that, both the capsule and the rocket safely returned to Earth.

Blue Origin continue to take 2020 for the maiden flight of the New Glenn rocket, which like its smaller sister New Shepard, will include a booster that will return for reuse. The company is already selling tickets for adventurous travelers who want to spend a short while in space, and you can stick your name on the list if you've got a spare $200,000 lying around.

For Wednesday's flight, the spacecraft was loaded with a variety of experiments, including instrumentation provided by NASA to measure pressure, acoustics, acceleration and other factors, a WiFi experiment, a study of how fine particles interact in random collisions and another NASA experiment to learn more about how water droplets behave in microgravity. The New Glenn will compete with United Launch Alliance's upcoming Vulcan rocket and with SpaceX boosters in the USA launch market.

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