Company president Rob Meyerson said that Blue Origin would carry out unmanned test flights “later this year,” and now it has been announced that Bezos’ company has already done so. Blue Origin has announced that the first unmanned test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle took place yesterday.
New Shepard almost reaches space
The space capsule reached speeds of greater than Mach 3, powered by the Blue Origin BE-3 rocket engine. The two components then separated, allowing the capsule to reach an altitude of 307,000 feet before returning to Earth. An altitude of 328,084 feet is widely thought to represent the boundary of space, meaning that New Shepard stopped just short before returning to Earth and making a soft landing following the deployment of its parachutes.
Although the flight was considered to be a success, Bezos and Blue Origin were not entirely satisfied. The company wants to make its rockets reusable, as do other commerical space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but a landing test for the rocket failed.
“Of course one of our goals is reusability, and unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent,” Jeff Bezos wrote. “Fortunately, we’ve already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. Also, assembly of propulsion module serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway – we’ll be ready to fly again soon.”
Race to make reusable rockets heats up
The company plans to use the New Shepard capsule to take passengers on suborbital space flights once it has completed testing. Bezos and Blue Origin have not yet announced the prices for such flights, but information is available to those who are interested in buying a ticket.
As well as New Shepard, Bezos is also developing a far larger system, which he calls the “Very Big Brother” of New Shepard, which will also be used to take commercial passengers into orbit. The billionaire space race between Bezos and Musk just got more interesting, and the competition as to who will be the first to successfully reuse a rocket appears to be heating up.