Blue Origin launches NASA’s new moon-landing technology into space

  • Rocket company Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos, launched a test flight for NASA to try out new moon-landing techniques.
  • NASA developed high precision sensors, software, and a new computer to help spacecraft land in rocky or shady regions of the Moon or Mars.
  • It paid Blue Origin $ 3 million to test those new technologies.
  • The landing system delivered a capsule from the company’s New Shepard rocket safely back to Earth on Tuesday.
  • Watch the 10-minute launch and landing below.
  • For more stories visit the Business Insider homepage.

Jeff Bezos’s rocket company, Blue Origin, launched a suite of new high-precision moon-landing technologies into space for NASA, then used those technologies to safely return to Earth.

The company’s New Shepard rocket was lifted from a launchpad in West Texas at 8:36 am CDT on Tuesday. From there, it reached an altitude of about 62 miles – reaching the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space – for other companies to drop NASA’s landing system and a capsule containing cargo, NASA’s hardware for the space environment Briefly highlighting.

The rocket booster then came back to Earth, deploying its air brakes and firing its thrusters to land softly on the Blue Origin facilities – Seventh New Shepard boosters to do this continuously.

About two minutes later, the capsule fell from orbit and rolled toward Earth, slowing its fall as the parachute released and prepared for a simulated moon landing.

NASA’s sensor systems, computers, and software were planned to land the capsule in a corner of desert dust during 10 minutes and 15 seconds of launch.

Blue root Called A “total success” immediately after the test flight. Here is his live broadcast on Tuesday:

NASA hopes one day that these new landing systems will be used to send manned missions to the moon, establish a permanent base there and eventually land astronauts on the treacherous Martian landscape.

The large system is called SPLICE, small – integrated capability development for safe and accurate landing. It is designed to help land future moon missions with better accuracy and safety – no pilot needed. This may enable future spacecraft to land in boulder fields or shady craters which are thus considered very dangerous for safe landing. This ability will open up to miles of lunar surface, with areas on other planets like Mars.

Blue origin new shepard rocket booster landing

New Shepard booster lands after vehicle’s sixth consecutive December 11, 2019.

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John Carson, who worked on precise landing technology at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said in a news release in September, “testing SPLICE techniques on a sub-orbital rocket has been used in previous laboratory tests, helicopter field trials and low-altitude sub-orbital rockets. Extends envelopes beyond trials. ” .

The New Sheppard test flight was originally scheduled for September 24, but Blue Origin reconstructed it, referring to Power supply issue. The company also canceled its planned second attempt the next day, saying This requires “verifying the solution on a technical issue”.

Blue original new shepard crew capsule parachute landing

New Sheppard Crew capsule lands under parachute on December 11, 2019 during NS-12.

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Tuesday’s launch revealed two flight tests that Blue Origin will operate through NASA’s Tipping Point program, which raised $ 44 million to help six private companies advance next-generation technologies at the finish line. Awarded. Blue Origin received $ 3 million for the project that ended in Tuesday’s test launch. The company also received $ 10 million to test a propulsion system that would use ultra-cold liquid fuel to land the robot on the moon.

New sensors and computers to respond to lunar terrain

nasa blue original moon landing splice system

NASA’s SPLICE lineage and landing computer (foreground) undergoes a flight test preparation.

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Blue Origin Flight only tested some elements of the SPLICE technology suite: two sensor systems, landing algorithms, and a new computer.

The first set of sensors are to help the spacecraft navigate the terrain where they can land. The system can enable a moon lander to determine its exact location by comparing real-time data from a set of pre-uploaded surface maps on a computer.

The other sensor system, a Doppler LIDAR, is designed to beam onto a laser on the surface of a planet and uses a return reflection to calculate the landing speed and altitude of the spacecraft. The system is slated to fly on two commercial lunar robot missions in 2021, including the lander that would take NASA’s new rover to the moon – the first such landing since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

Astrobiotic Griffin Moon Lander Lunar Rover Viper

A parable deploys Astrobiotic’s Griffin lunar lander on a ramp to the lunar surface.


NASA designed new technologies so that they could work together or separately, allowing the agency to pick and choose elements needed for particular missions. Blue Origin Flight tested how the elements work together in a new spacecraft.

“Sensor data has been processed through all descent and landing computers,” Carson said. “Plenty of other software runs in the background, integrating different systems, figuring out what needs to be run next, and, for this test, synchronizing time with the Blue Origin flight computer. It’s All is important so that the system can run autonomously and provide us. With data that we can analyze after the flight. ”

NASA plans to test a third sensor system – which will scan the surface of a planet to detect threats and select safe landing spots in future tests.

Dave Mosher contributed reporting.

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