Blue Origin rockets: Baker’s Dozen of New Shepard launches8th Mar 2021
The New Shepard launch is closer than it may seem. Technology development takes humanity to new levels and makes their lives more comfortable. A century ago, traveling 100km would take several days. Now, the same distance can be covered in less than 15 minutes. The passenger airliner maintains a speed of 800km per hour, but it is no longer the limit. Suborbital flights are the future, and it is closer than it may seem. Aerospace company Blue Origin, founded by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, has come close to the first flight of its reusable New Shepard suborbital spacecraft with tourists on board.
What is New Shepard?
New Shepard is named after the first American astronaut to make a guided suborbital flight under the Mercury program. The spacecraft can deliver payload and passengers to the Karman Line, the boundary between space and atmosphere, at an altitude of 100km above sea level.
The New Shepard consists of a booster unit module and a six-seater capsule. It reaches 40km altitude in 110 seconds. After reaching the Karman line, the capsule and unit separate and return to Earth. The booster reactivates the engines for a vertical landing, and the capsule lands with three alternating parachutes. The whole flight takes 11 minutes.
Initially, the New Shepard was developed as a cruise ship for anyone wishing to observe the Earth from a spacious cockpit of a spaceship. But NASA noted that Blue Origin launches technology can be used for a moon landing. As a result, Jeff Bezos’ company joined the new Artemis Moon Exploration Program and is now developing the Blue Moon lunar landing module. In addition, Blue Origin is working on a heavy rocket New Glenn, named after another US astronaut. The rocket will have a payload capacity of approximately 13 tons.
New Shepard Launch History
While Blue Moon and New Glenn are being developed, New Shepard has already made 13 flights. The first took place in April 2015 and was unsuccessful. The ship reached 93.5 km altitude but crashed on landing.
Six months later, New Shepard 2 was launched, which was a complete success.
In 2016, New Shepard 2 reached the Karman line four more times, and each of Blue Origin launches was deemed a success. In December 2017, Blue Origin introduced the New Shepard 3 with the new Crew Capsule 2.0.
Until 13th October 2020, the reusable spacecraft made seven successful flights. The last four flights carried commercial, research and technological payloads, as well as the SPLICE system to test future lunar landing technologies.
The first manned flight of New Shepard 4 is scheduled for 2021. The exact date has not been announced yet, but we can be sure that this launch will happen and become a success. After all, Blue Origin always brings its cases to a victorious end, and a manned New Shepard launch should not be an exception.