Blue Origin has quietly completed a launch of their New Shepard vehicle from the company’s West Texas testing site. The launch carried the company’s next-generation crew capsule housing 12 research payloads and an instrumented test dummy dubbed “Mannequin Skywalker”.
“Today’s flight of New Shepard was a tremendous success,” said Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin. “It marks the inaugural flight of our next-generation crew capsule as we continue step-by-step progress in our test flight program.”
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) December 13, 2017
The Mission 7 launch lifted off on December 12 at 16:59 GMT (11:59 EST) and reached an altitude of approximately 100 kilometres with a top speed during the vehicle’s descent of Mach 2.94. At its peak altitude, the New Shepard launch vehicle released the crew capsule. The launch vehicle’s booster then returned to Earth performing a controlled vertical landing at 10.86 kph (6.75 mph). Finally, the crew capsule returned gently to Earth under three blue and red parachutes.
Tuesday’s launch was the inaugural flight for the company’s new propulsion module. The previous module was retired following five successful test flights between November 2015 and October 2016. The launch was also the first for Blue Origin’s upgraded crew capsule, Crew Capsule 2.0. According to the company, the capsule features the largest windows ever flown on a spacecraft.
The next-generation engine that will power the company’s New Glenn launch vehicle is also currently undergoing testing. The BE-4 engine had its first hot first test in October of this year and is also in the running to be the preferred choice to power the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket.
Image Credit: Blue Origin