For the first time, Blue Origin told the public about one of its launches ahead of the event. For the third time, Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight company stuck its landing perfectly after a sub-orbital flight.
Blue Origin does it again
Blue Origin plans to begin offering space tourism next year and the ability to return its boosters to Earth upright is a key to making it “affordable.” Whether people will shell out the not yet determined fee to nearly get to space is another animal altogether.
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“Flawless BE-3 restart and perfect booster landing,” Jeff Bezos tweeted on April 2, at 11:18 a.m. EDT (1515 GMT), speaking to New Shepard’s BE-3 rocket engine. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly to those considering a trip next year, was the next tweet a few minutes later that read, “[Crew capsule] touchdown confirmed.”
While the landing of the booster is important in keeping down costs, the crew capsule is where want to be astronauts will be when returning to Earth. Bezos went on tell those interested that the video of the launch and aerial views will be made available in the near future.
For those in attendance, Bezos wore a pair of cowboy boots custom-made with Blue Origin’s motto “Gradatum Ferociter” (Step by Step, Ferociously) that were given to him by an unnamed friend.
The first successful landings of the rocket booster occurred in November 2015 and again on January 22 of this year.
At present, the New Shepard rocket and capsule has been designed and is powered to take six people to the far reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. While able to fly higher than the flights its had to to date, the idea is to keep flights sub-orbital. Like in this flight, the capsule separates from the rocket and the rocket then lands back on Earth for reuse by using its thrusters to steady the reentry and landing.
Tweet to announce the launch
Unlike past secretive launches, Bezos tweeted this launch on Friday a day ahead of the latest flight. That tweet promised that Blue Origin would be “pushing the envelope” by only restarting the boosters rockets at a mere 3,600 feet (1,097 meters) from the ground.
“Impact in 6 [seconds] if engine doesn’t restart & ramp fast,” Bezos wrote. The flight took off and landed from the company’s property in Texas. Bezos also pointed out the the New Shepard’s Crew Capsul was carrying a more efficient reaction control system algorithm that would be a “Big performance win if it works,” according to Bezos.
In addition to the aforementioned algorithm, the Crew Capsule had two science experiments onboard including one called the “Box of Rocks” Experiment,” which not surprisingly, involved a box of rocks. That experiment was designed by researchers at the Southwest Research Institute to look at how rocks move about in weightlessness and simulate how the rocky soil on asteroids also moves.
The second experiment was designed by researchers at the University of Central Florida and was titled Collisions in Dust where a marble was dropped into a bed of dust in order to simulate an early galactic explosion.
While Bezos and Blue Origin can now claim three successful landings of its boosters, but only SpaceX can claim a successful landing of a booster following the orbital flight of a Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX is, of course, owned by Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk.
SpaceX has a mission to resupply the International Space Station scheduled for tomorrow night.