[Satnews] Blue Origin announces that its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing an historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas.
“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”
Named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the New Shepard vertical takeoff and vertical landing vehicle will carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally-recognized boundary of space. Blue Origin astronauts will experience the thrill of launch atop a rocket, the freedom of weightlessness, and views through the largest windows to ever fly in space. An animation of the Blue Origin astronaut experience can be found at www.blueorigin.com/astronaut-experience. Astronaut flights will begin following completion of a methodical flight test program.
Details on the Reusable New Shepard Space Vehicle
The New Shepard space vehicle is fully reusable and operated from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. The vehicle is comprised of two elements—a crew capsule in which the astronauts ride and a rocket booster powered by a single American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine. At liftoff, the BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust. During ascent, astronauts experience 3x the force of gravity as the spacecraft accelerates through the atmosphere.
Following powered flight, the crew capsule separates from the booster and coasts into space, providing several minutes of weightlessness. As the crew capsule descends, it reenters the atmosphere with astronauts experiencing about 5x the force of gravity before deploying three main parachutes for landing. Meanwhile, the booster descends under guided flight to the landing pad. Just prior to landing, the booster re-ignites its BE-3 engine which slows the vehicle to 4.4 mph for a gentle, powered vertical landing, enabling vehicle reuse.
- Launched at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, November 23, 2015
- Apogee of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) for the crew capsule
- Mach 3.72
- Re-ignition of rocket booster at 4,896 feet above ground level
- Controlled vertical landing of the booster at 4.4 mph
- Deployment of crew capsule drogue parachutes at 20,045 feet above ground level
- Landing of the crew capsule under parachutes at 11:32 a.m. Central Time
- Additional remarks from Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos are available on the Blue Origin blog at www.blueorigin.com/news/blog/historic-rocket-landing
To receive updates on Blue Origin’s continuing progress and early access to ticketing information, sign up at www.blueorigin.com/interested.
Bezos' Blog November 23, 2015
Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.
This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.
When you watch the video you’ll see that we took the liberty of engineering all the drama out of the landing. Video of today’s mission: www.blueorigin.com/gallery.
We are building Blue Origin to seed an enduring human presence in space, to help us move beyond this blue planet that is the origin of all we know. We are pursuing this vision patiently, step-by-step. Our fantastic team in Kent, Van Horn and Cape Canaveral is working hard not just to build space vehicles, but to bring closer the day when millions of people can live and work in space.
Congratulations to the whole Blue Origin team on today’s amazing accomplishment.
PS - Soon you’ll be able to climb aboard New Shepard and come home an astronaut. To receive updates on our progress and get early access to ticketing information, sign up at www.blueorigin.com/interested.