The BE-3 engine powers the New Shepherd system into the clear Texas skies. Credit:Blue Origin.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos must have been very proud last week to see a successful launch of his New Shepherd space system from a Texas launch site. Although space media have known of Blue Origin, Bezos' private space company, the company leadership has kept their development somewhat under wraps. The test launch took some space enthusiasts by surprise. NASA had not included Blue Origin in their grants of Commercial Crew Development money. Blue Origin went ahead with their project anyway, and Thursday April 30 saw the first public test of the new capsule on the rocket.
Touchdown! The capsule lands safely downrange slowed by three main parachutes.
The company's BE-3 engine sent the rocket up swiftly and the capsule separated as planned, reaching an altitude over 300,000 feet. After reaching apogee, the New Shepherd capsule oriented so that the descent parachutes could deploy. The capsule is designed for short sub-orbital flights, taking paying passengers into zero-gravity for a 15-minute mission. With the recent delays in the Virgin Galactic space tourism project, it's possible that Blue Origins could end up being first in space tourism operations.
New Shepherd capsule. Credit: Blue Origin.