Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos' space venture Blue Origin launched its New Shepard spaceship on a test flight today.
The unmanned craft made it almost as high as outer space before it lost its propulsion module. But the empty crew capsule made a parachute landing, just as planned.
The crew capsule descends after separating from the craft’s propulsion module. [Blue Origin]
"Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return," Bezos wrote in a blog post recapping the test at Blue Origin's West Texas test facility. "In fact, if New Shepard had been a traditional expendable vehicle, this would have been a flawless first test flight."
The New Shepard rocket blasts off on its first test flight from Blue Origin's launch site in west Texas. [Blue Origin]
“One of our goals is reusability, and unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent,” said Bezos. “Fortunately, we’ve already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. Also, assembly of propulsion module serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway – we’ll be ready to fly again soon.”
The New Shepard crew capsule separates from the propulsion module and continues its ascent to 307,000 feet before returning to Earth for a classic landing under parachutes. [Blue Origin]
“We continue to be big fans of the vertical takeoff, vertical landing architecture. We chose VTVL because it’s scalable to very large size. We’re already designing New Shepard’s sibling, her Very Big Brother – an orbital launch vehicle that is many times New Shepard’s size and is powered by our 550,000-lbf thrust liquefied natural gas, liquid oxygen BE-4 engine.”
Alan Boyle at NBC News has a full recap here.
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