Astronomy and Space News - Astro Watch: Blue Origin's New Shepard Successfully Flies 8 NASA Research and Technology Payloads to Space

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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Blue Origin's New Shepard Successfully Flies 8 NASA Research and Technology Payloads to Space

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifts off from West Texas on Wednesday. Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin demonstrated the versatility of the New Shepard system by taking 8 NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space on Wednesday, January 23. This flight was dedicated to NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, an essential program for researchers providing access to microgravity for technology development. Blue Origin supports the Flight Opportunities program and its role in perfecting technology for a future human presence in space.

The single stage rocket, powered by a BE-3 engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, took off at 10:05 a.m. EST (9:05 a.m. CST; 1505 GMT) from Blue Origin’s test site north of Van Horn, Texas, according to Ariane Cornell, a company sales director who anchored a video webcast of the mission.

After more than a month of delays caused by vehicle issues and bad weather, the New Shepard climbed to an altitude of more than 350,000 feet — nearly 107 kilometers — after firing the BE-3 engine for nearly two-and-a-half minutes. A capsule carrying the NASA research payloads separated from the New Shepard booster moments later, and the pair coasted toward apogee, the highest altitude of the mission, before descending back into the atmosphere.

The booster deployed air brakes to slow its descent, then reignited the BE-3 engine and extended landing legs to touch down on a landing pad around 2 miles (3 kilometers) from its launch location at the sprawling West Texas test site owned by Blue Origin's founder Jeff Bezos.

New Shepard’s reusability is lowering launch costs and creating routine access to space. Lowering the cost of microgravity research increases the opportunities for universities, government researchers and entrepreneurs to test payloads and technologies in space. 

The launch was the 10th successful mission for the New Shepard program and the 4th flight for this vehicle. It was another great practice run towards regular payload flights with the company's growing fleet of launch vehicles.

Flying New Shepard more frequently is critically important to the future of Blue Origin. It moves the company's toward its ultimate goal to lower the cost of access to space and move heavy industry off Earth so we can use space to benefit Earth.

"Additionally, the continued success and proven stability of this configuration on a subscale confirms we are using the methods, operations and technology needed for our larger scale programs," Blue Origin said in a press release.

In an upcoming mission, New Shepard will take payloads to space from around the world. 

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