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Blue Origin plans high-altitude escape test on launch Wednesday

19 July 2018

Jeff Bezos' private spaceflight company Blue Origin has test launched their New Shepard rocket for the ninth time on Wednesday.

Then both the booster and the capsule made picture-perfect landings back at Blue Origin's West Texas test site, within sight of the launch pad.

This is not the first high-energy test of New Shepard.

Booster landing
New Shepard’s reusable booster comes in for a landing

While this flight was primarily meant to demonstrate the vehicle's escape system, the crew capsule carried eight research and technology demonstration payloads, similar to what the vehicle has done on previous suborbital test flights. At the time of publishing, Blue Origin Origin did not reply to questions about how many more tests flights are needed before testing with humans begins.

This was the third trip to space for both this New Shepherd rocket booster and the crew capsule, both created to be reusable like SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsules.

New Shepard flew for the ninth time on July 18, 2018.

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Although there weren't any people aboard this test flight, Blue Origin's test dummy, Mannequin Skywalker, was strapped in a chair to measure the gravitation forces a real body might experience during a somewhat violent abort. Wednesday's flight tested the system at high altitude, just after the booster's BE-3 engine shut down following a smooth climb out of the thick lower atmosphere.

The test will simulate an emergency high altitude "escape motor" test. How this will differentiate from the previous safety test is yet to be seen, such as the potential to fire the escape system later into the flight. More than half a dozen scientific payloads were packed inside as well, plus mementos from Blue Origin employees that were included as part of an internal "Fly My Stuff" program.

Several NASA payloads are riding along, such as SFEM-2 - which was first flown on Mission 8 of New Shepard, and will collect additional data on Mission 9. The experiment will record vehicle conditions including cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, and acceleration. (Blue Origin via YouTube) The New Shepard capsule makes its descent.

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Blue Origin continue to take 2020 for the maiden flight of the New Glenn rocket, which like its smaller sister New Shepard, will include a booster that will return for reuse.

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Blue Origin plans high-altitude escape test on launch Wednesday