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Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin is set to conduct the latest test flight of its rocket New Shepard to its facility in the West Texas desert on Tuesday.
Passengers will not be aboard in the mission, although New Shepard launches at the top with a capsule that is designed to carry as many as six people for the mission. Known as the NS-13, it will be the mission system’s 13th test flight – as well as a record seventh consecutive launch for a capsule-carrying rocket booster as it has landed six times since prior missions.
The NS-13 was originally scheduled to launch on 24 September, but an issue with the rocket’s power supply delayed the mission.
Blue Origin launched a new Shepard rocket from its facility in Texas.
Blue Origin | by gif @thesheetztweetz
The New Shepard is designed to take people on a ride to the edge of space, with capsules reaching altitudes of 340,000 feet (or more than 100 kilometers) on previous test flights. The capsule spends 10 minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth, massive windows to give passengers a view.
Although it is not moving a crew, the NS-13 mission will include many commercial payloads such as microgravity experiments and research. Blue Origin said it has 12 payloads on board from paying customers, most notably NASA’s SPLICE (“Safe and Accurate Landing – Integrated Capacity Development”) technology demonstration.
Spice is designed to give astronauts “artificial eyes” such as spacecraft, to help secure land more safely. NASA Tech is mounted on the New Shepard booster, and will use a combination of booster navigation, Doppler Lidar, and a descent computer to target the booster’s landing area. The goal of Spice technology is to allow the spacecraft to land about 300 feet inside its intended target on the lunar surface, which NASA describes as a “high-accuracy landing”. Blue Origin said the NS-13 is the first of two planned flights with SPLICE demonstrators on board.
NASA’s lunar landing technology demonstration sensors have been placed near the top of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket booster.
Blue Origin last conducted a test flight to New Shepard in December 2019. As the company flew three New Shepard flights last year, a nine-month hiatus is unusual – but Blue Origin received an internal push from employees when they planned to conduct a mission. The COVID-19 pandemic began in the US, The Verge reported in April. At the time, Blue Origin told The Verge that it was monitoring the coronavirus virus and maintains “protection as our highest value”.
The company has yet to fly passengers on its rockets, with CEO Bob Smith saying earlier this year that the company’s New Shepard rocket would require three or four more test flights before it could be mounted on people.
Bezos personally funds the development of Blue Origin by selling part of its stock at Amazon. While he has previously stated that he sells nearly $ 1 billion worth of Amazon shares annually to fund the space company, Bezos recently increased its stock sales, selling more than $ 7.2 billion this year and Sales of $ 2.8 billion in 2019 – suggesting that it has increased its annual investment to Blue Origin.
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