As per the latest reports, Amazon.com head Jeff Bezos’ aerospace manufacturing company Blue origin is gearing up for the launch of its new and upgraded New Shepard suborbital booster which is scheduled to take place next week. Recently, a notice was published on the Federal Aviation Administration’s website regarding airspace restriction over West Texas which is an indication of an upcoming rocket launch. Also, on December 9, Blue Origin issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) to clear the launch site and alert everybody about the launch. A Blue Origin Spokesperson said, “Blue Origin has filed a NOTAM for spaceflight operations this week. It will be taken down when our activity is complete.
Previously, Blue origin officials had informed that the ground crews were busy reading the next upgraded model of the New Shepard single-stage rocket for its first test flight. The test flight, which will be a suborbital launch, will take place at the company’s test facility near Van Horn, Texas, east of El Paso. According to the NOTAM issued, the Blue Origin’s remote desert launch base will be restricted due to the spaceflight operations” from Monday through Thursday, between 1430 and 2100 GMT (9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. EST; 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. CST). That means during this time no pilots are allowed to operate the aircrafts inside the restricted area so that a safe environment for the rocket launch and recovery can be provided. The restricted area is approximately 19.6 miles (31.4 kilometers) in radius surrounding the test facility.
As per Blue Origin, its New Shepard consists of a new capsule and a booster. The booster will be topped with the new pressurized crew capsule. The capsule is designed to carry experiments, researchers and space tourists on short suborbital hops above the Karman Line, an internationally recognized imaginary boundary of space situated about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above our Earth. The New Shepard is almost 60 feet tall is powered by a single Blue Origin-built BE-3 engine that consumes liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant.
According to Blue Origin, the capsule’s interior volume is around 530 cubic feet (15 cubic meters), and along with that the capsule also contains an emergency escape motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. New Sheppard is a completely reusable rocket system, and the company claims that both the capsule and the rocket can be recovered successfully. After the launch, the capsule will be separated from the rocket, and both will be attempted for re-landing. The descending rocket will be slowed down by a drag brake and then will undergo powered landing to get landed on a concrete pad with the help of its extended landing legs.
The latest New Shepard rocket system is the third installment of Blue Origin. In 2015, the first model, called the NS1, got destroyed due to a hydraulic failure during its descent after a successful launch. The 2nd generation New Shepard proved to be the most successful one as it underwent five successful launches as well as re-landing. The capsule successfully accommodated automated research experiments, without any crew on-board, in its previous suborbital test flights. Now with the third New Shepard rocket and capsule system, Blue Origin is planning to send humans to suborbital hops above Karman line soon.
On October 5, Bob Smith, Blue Origin’s CEO said in a presentation to the National Space Council that within the next 18 months they will be launchi9ng humans into space. “These won’t be astronauts — people that would have been trained and specialized within an area — but these will be everyday citizens,” he said. Blue Origins has indicated that the third module will be tested again next year to get perfection in re-landing and re-using capabilities.