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October 4th, 2016

Blue Origin's Abort Test May Be Blown Up... Or Not?

Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle lifting off on a January 22 test flight. An October 5th  flight will test the crew capsule's abort system. Credit: Blue Origin

Tomorrow there will be an abort test in which the propulsion module of the rocket isn't likely to survive the test. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin will conduct the test on its suborbital New Shepard vehicle Wednesday (October 5) at the company’s test site in West Texas. 

Although the procedure will resemble several other New Shepherd test flights this one will be different, as 45 seconds into the flight the abort motor in the crew capsule of the vehicle will fire sending it away from the propulsion module with a parachute.

It is uncertain whether the propulsion module will survive the test. “The booster was never designed to survive an in-flight escape,” Bezos wrote in a September 8 message discussing the upcoming test, citing “70,000 pounds of off-axis force delivered by searing hot exhaust” slamming into the module from the crew capsule’s escape motor.

If the module does land safely it would be the fifth time that the booster makes a successful flight and "we will in fact reward it for its service with a retirement party and put it in a museum,” he wrote.

The company offered a bit more information about the New Glenn vehicle that Bezos announced September 12. This came after three weeks of wind tunnel tests of a model of the large orbital launch vehicle in which the performance of the rocket was tested at transonic and supersonic speeds.  The first stage uses seven BE-4 engines that Blue Origin is currently developing, and the second stage has one BE-4. An optional third stage uses a BE-3 engine based on the one used by New Shepard. 

Now, will the New Shepherd find its way, or be a lost lamb?