Blue Origin Plans New Shepard Flight Next Week

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) for Dec. 11 through 14 (Monday through Thursday) covering its rocket test site near Van Horn, Texas.

A source tells Parabolic Arc the company will be testing an upgraded version of its suborbital New Shepard booster and capsule with scientific experiments aboard. The spacecraft will have real windows (the ones on the previous capsule were painted on) but is not intended for human flight.

The reusable New Shepard system has launched six times from its West Texas test site. On five occasions, both the booster and the spacecraft landed safely after exceeding the Karman line at 100 km (62 miles). The booster on the first flight crashed while attempting a landing. The capsule landed safely after reaching an altitude of 93.5 km (58 miles).

The most recent New Shepard flight was a test of the capsule’s abort system in October 2016. The spacecraft blasted away from the booster in mid-flight; both vehicles landed safely and were subsequently retired.