Blue Origin Aims for Orbital Flight on Atlas V

The mysterious Blue Origin has plans for an orbital capsule to be launched aboard an Atlas V rocket, according to the FAA’s 2011 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports report:

In 2010, NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Blue Origin for $3.7 million as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Under the agreement, Blue Origin continued development of a “pusher” crew escape system. In the past, crew escape systems have been of the “tractor” variety, in which a launch escape tower pulls a capsule away from the launch vehicle. This introduces a flight safety event when there is no emergency, as the tractor must be jettisoned. Blue Origin is developing a “pusher” system mounted at the rear of the capsule. This allows the escape system to remain with the vehicle when there is no emergency, avoiding the flight-safety risk of the jettison event.

Under CCDev, Blue Origin also continued development of a subscale composite pressure vessel, which is lighter and provides more redundant safety protection for astronauts during flight. Blue Origin was the first of NASA’s CCDev partners to successfully complete all milestones co-funded by NASA under the program.Testing these technologies will inform development of Blue Origin’s orbital Space Vehicle, which the company plans to launch aboard an Atlas V and eventually on Blue Origin’s own reusable booster system.

Interesting. This fits in with Blue Origin’s recent filing for a patent on a reusable booster recovery system.

It will be interesting to see whether NASA continues to fund this work under CCDev 2. The company has not been identified as one of the competitors invited to NASA Johnson to further discuss proposals. However, given the company’s secrecy, it’s not clear whether we would know if they had been brought in for more discussions.