Under the clear western sky of Texas on Wednesday morning, Blue Origin's New Shepard autonomous launch system made what appeared to be an impeccable flight into space and back. After separating from its reinforcement, the ship climbed to a height of 106.9 km before returning to Earth by parachute. The reinforcement also made a nominal nominal landing.
For Blue Origin, the company's first flight of its reusable New Shepard system in more than six months had a dual purpose. It provided additional test data for the launch system as the company approaches crewed flights, and the launch allowed the company to transport eight research and technology loads sponsored by NASA to space through the Oportunidades program. of Flight of the NASA.
During the webcast, Blue Origin sales director Ariane Cornell said the company was "aiming" to make human flights aboard New Shepard before the end of 2019, but stressed that Blue Origin would not compromise security for comply with arbitrary dates. The company has yet to start selling tickets for the six-person capsule or set a price for the 11-minute experience that will take pbadengers above the Kármán line and provide a few minutes of weightlessness.
It's not a race
Unlike some previous test missions, Wednesday's flight followed the same profile that space tourists will take. The vehicles that flew on Wednesday were the third New Shepard rocket that Blue Origin has built (Tail 3) and its second capsule. This was the fourth flight for both vehicles, which have undergone several tests, including a flight abortion scenario last July.
Cornell said that Tail 4, New Shepard's fourth driver, was already sent to the West Texas launch site from the company's factory in Kent, Washington. Tests are being conducted there, and Blue Origin anticipates that Tail 4 will be the reinforcement used to launch humans. The third capsule, which will probably also be used for human missions, is being carried out in Washington.
The company said it is not in a "race" with Virgin Galactic, which managed to fly above 80 km in December for the first time with its air-powered spacecraft. Virgin Galactic has a list of more than 500 customers who bought tickets and can start flying some of those pbadengers later this year. Virgin says that 80 km is high enough to be considered space, but during Wednesday's Internet broadcast, Cornell said New Shepard would fly over 100 km, "the internationally recognized space line."