Surprise, yet another commercial space flight company has punched through the relentless imposition of earth’s jealous grasp and touched the face of space. This time it’s the Amazon.com innovator Jeff Bezos whose company Blue Origin has built a commercial, reusable rocket to blast into space carrying passengers in a way that is similar to Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Here is a report from The Daily Mail about the historic flight:
The dawn of a new era of space travel may be upon us after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos successfully tested a vehicle that will take tourists into space.
Mr Bezos’ firm, called the Blue Origin company, has long spoken of its desire to take paying astronauts into the cosmos.
And now it has performed the first successful test of the vehicle they hope will make that dream a reality.
Called New Shepard, the vehicle consists of a main booster rocket and a six-seater capsule on top, standing 60ft (18 metres) tall.
HOW NEW SHEPARD WORKS
The New Shepard system will take astronauts to space on suborbital journeys.
It includes a Crew Capsule carrying six astronauts atop a separate rocket-powered Propulsion Module, launched from the firm’s West Texas Launch Site.
Following liftoff, the combined vehicles accelerate for approximately two and a half minutes.
The Propulsion Module then shuts off its rocket engines and separates from the Crew Capsule. The Propulsion Module will finish its flight, descend to Earth, and autonomously perform a rocket-powered vertical landing.
The Crew Capsule will go on to coast to the edge of space, providing astronauts with a view to the curvature of the Earth and the beauty of our planet.
After descent and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the Crew Capsule will land under parachutes no more than a few miles from the launch site.
In addition, the New Shepard vehicle will provide opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment.
For this, the first test flight of the entire architecture, it was unmanned – but the company hopes to soon start taking customers into space.
The cost of a ticket has not yet been announced, but estimates suggest it will be around £130,000 $200,000 – similar to a flight on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
The difference, however, is that while Galactic relies on using a plane to slowly rise into the atmosphere, New Shepard takes off straight up and lands back on the ground.
This is known as vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL).
And Blue Origin is also much more secretive – with this successful test flight taking many by surprise.
In video released by Blue Origin, the booster – using liquid hydrogen and oxygen – lifts the New Shepard vehicle to an altitude of 58 miles (94km).
This is four miles (six kilometres) short of the official boundary of space – the Karman Line – although there does not seem to be any problems with reaching this boundary in future.
Once it reached its peak altitude, accelerating at 3Gs, the booster separated from the capsule.
‘The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect,’ Mr Bezso said in a blog post.
‘Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.’
The booster is designed to be able to land on the ground and be reusable, much like rival SpaceX’s own reusable rocket system.
On this occasion, however, the booster lost pressure in its hydraulic system and was not recovered.
Mr Bezos said the firm was already working on an improved system to make sure the error doesn’t happen again.
‘Assembly of propulsion module serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway – we’ll be ready to fly again soon,’ he said.
The flight of the capsule, however, passed without a hitch and it successfully landed on the ground with the help of three parachutes.
The company is keen on VTVL because it is ‘scalable to a very large size,’ according to Mr Bezos.
And he noted that the company was already working on a larger vehicle, New Shepard’s ‘Very Big Brother. Following this successful flight, many will be expecting the company to go from strength to strength.
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It won’t be long now, there is a lot of competition for space and the world’s governments are well behind the curve. They cannot compete with minds like Bezos. For all the assumptions made about the construct of the Moon and all the hoopla about getting astronauts into space to a space station, the cost of such travel is coming down dramatically—significantly in just the next few years. This is a huge step forward.
I am very happy to see Bezos new test flight, and I wish him many successful returns. I want to see a fire lit under Virgin Galactic’s butt. Because we will all benefit from the competition.