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'New Shepard' demonstrates viability of reusable rocket technology

24 November 2015

Blue Origin has announced on its website that its New Shepard space vehicle flew to space, reaching an altitude of 100.5km before making a successful landing.

New Shepard (courtesy of Blue Origin)

“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” says Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission, soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the centre of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”

Named in honour of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the New Shepard vertical take-off and vertical landing vehicle will carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100km, the internationally-recognised boundary of space. Blue Origin astronauts will experience weightlessness and views through the largest windows to ever fly in space. An animation of the Blue Origin astronaut experience is available here.

The New Shepard space vehicle is fully reusable and operated from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. The vehicle comprises two elements — a crew capsule in which the astronauts ride and a rocket booster powered by a single BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine. At lift-off, the BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust.

Following powered flight, the crew capsule separates from the booster and coasts into space, providing several minutes of weightlessness. As the crew capsule descends, it re-enters the atmosphere with astronauts experiencing about five times the force of gravity before deploying three main parachutes for landing. Meanwhile, the booster descends under guided flight to the landing pad. Just prior to landing, the booster re-ignites its BE-3 engine which slows the vehicle to 4.4 mph for a gentle, powered vertical landing, enabling vehicle reuse.

Blue Origin, LLC is a private company developing vehicles and technologies to enable commercial human space transportation.

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