The much await test flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket system has finally taken place. As per the latest reports, Amazon.com head Jeff Bezos’ aerospace manufacturing company Blue Origin has successfully launched its new and upgraded New Shepard suborbital vehicle from its West Texas launch. The suborbital booster carrying an unpiloted crew capsule blasted off from the launch site on Tuesday at 11:59 a.m. EST (1659 GMT, 10:59 a.m. local Texas time).
The Blue Origin team also successfully re-landed both the rocket and the crew capsule back on Earth. Both the booster and the capsule of the New Shepard system reached to an altitude of 322,000 feet (about 61 miles) before the capsule got detached from the booster. Then, the booster’s engine was shut down, and it came straight down to Earth before the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 main engine got restarted again to slow down during descend. That means the booster had perfect, controlled vertical touchdown on a circular landing with the help of four landing legs. The capsule, having large windows and carrying a instrument-laden dummy passenger “Mannequin Skywalker”, was also re-landed successfully with the help of parachutes.
The fact sheet provided by Blue Origin stated that the capsule’s landing brought the crew-less test flight to an end, 10 minutes and 6 seconds after liftoff. As per the fact sheet, the booster reached a top speed of Mach 2.94 during its ascent and Mach 3.74 during its descent. But when it touched down, it had a mere speed of only 6.75 mph. The unpiloted crew capsule touched the ground near the launch site at just 1mph. In a statement, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said, “Today’s flight of New Shepard was a tremendous success. It marks the inaugural flight of our next-generation Crew Capsule as we continue step-by-step progress in our test flight program. Congratulations to the entire Blue Origin team on a job well done and to our payload customers that gathered important data on the suborbital environment. Gradatim Ferociter.” Readers may note that the “Gradatim Ferociter” is the tagline or motto of Blue Origin. It’s a Latin sentence which means “Step by Step, Ferociously.” After the launch, Blue origin tweeted, “Successful first flight of #NewShepard today with the largest windows in space and commercial payloads on board. Wholly successful mission.”
This latest booster system is the third generation of New Shepard built by Blue Origin. The first installment, known as NS1, got burnt up during its decent owing to hydraulic failure. The 2nd New Shepard rocket-capsule system proved to be the most successful one for New Origin. It had perfect launching and re-landing five times in a row and successfully carried payloads and automated experiments to the suborbital space during all its test flights.