Tag: Blue Origin

The Year Ahead in Space

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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The Year in Suborbital Launches

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

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

Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km.
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Blue Origin Soared, Virgin Galactic Glided & XCOR Stumbled in 2016

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New_Shepard_flight4_rocket_landing
It was a busy year in the development of suborbital human spacecraft, with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic both taking to the sky and XCOR putting its Lynx space plane on hold.

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Trump Adds Commercial Space Advocate to NASA Transition Team

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President elect Donald Trump has named commercial space backer Charles Miller to the NASA landing team amid reports that similar minded advocates will be added to transition group.

Miller is president of NexGen Space LLC, a company that advises clients on commercial, civil and national security space.  He previously served as NASA’s senior advisor for commercial space.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Trump officials are also working on appointing Alan Stern, chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Alan Lindenmoyer, who formerly managed NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. Both nominations are in the process of being vetted for conflicts of interest.

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New Glenn Production Facility Under Construction in Florida

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New Glenn production facility under construction in December 2016. (Credit: Blue Origin)

New Glenn production facility under construction in December 2016. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Just a very short note to update you on the 750,000 square-foot New Glenn rocket factory we’re building in Florida. The team has made extraordinary progress—as you can see here, the first steel is now going up.

And again, here’s an image of what it will look like by the end of 2017.

New Glenn production facility. (Credit: Blue Origin)

New Glenn production facility. (Credit: Blue Origin)

I’ll keep you updated on our progress.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

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Bezos Shows of Blue Origin’s Custom Drilling Machine

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Automated electrical discharge machining (EDM) drilling machine. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Automated electrical discharge machining (EDM) drilling machine. (Credit: Blue Origin)

For BE-4, not only do we have to design the engine itself, we also have to develop custom tools to make it. One of these tools is an automated electrical discharge machining (EDM) drilling machine. The EDM precisely locates and burns more than 4,000 tightly dimensioned holes into the nozzle and main combustion chamber, providing entry to the regenerative cooling channels.

As far as we know, this particular EDM machine is the only one of its kind in the world. It has 11 axes of motion allowing for precise hole location and accuracy within a few thousands of an inch. Its dual-head design results in reduced cycle time for the drilled holes. Brass multichannel electrodes are used to drill the holes. Water can be pumped through the electrode in order to speed up the drilling cycle. The use of water also helps flush the hole and remove the powder-like foreign object debris generated by the process. This eliminates the concern for plugging cooling channels, which can easily occur with conventional drilling methods. A pair of automated electrode-changing stations allows the EDM to continuously operate for long cycle times at an average rate of one hole every 90 seconds.

Building and operating custom tools of this magnitude is a big investment, but it’s critical for developing an engine that will power America’s access to space in the future.

A pretty wise investment, if you ask me.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

PS: Blue Origin is hiring. Check out our Careers page and apply.

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Trump, Musk, Bezos, Bruno & the Future of America’s Space Program

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Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

There’s been a lot of speculation since the election on  what president-elect Donald Trump will do with the nation’s civilian and military space programs.

Two Trump advisors laid out some goals before the election: more commercial partnerships, boosting defense spending, increasing hypersonics and slashing NASA Earth science. However, most details remain unclear.

A key question is whether Trump really cares about space all that much. That’s a little hard to discern given his comments during  the campaign.

When first questioned on the subject, he expressed a preference for fixing potholes in America’s crumbling streets over sending people to Mars. Trump has promised a large infrastructure repair program.

During a visit to Florida, he attacked the Obama Administration for allegedly wrecking NASA and the space program. During another appearance in the Sunshine State about a week later, Trump praised the space agency for how well it was performing.

So, NASA is either doing great, a disaster that needs to be made great again, or an obstacle to pothole repair. Assuming Trump actually cares, and he’s willing to spend some money on making NASA great again, what might he do? What major decisions does he face?
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Video: Branson Says Space Tourism Competition Good

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Program Updates from ISPCS

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The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

NASA and various commercial companies gave updates on their programs during the International Symposium on Commercial and Personal Spaceflight this week in Las Cruces, NM.

What follows are summaries that include:

  • suborbital programs (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin)
  • commercial cargo (SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation)
  • commercial crew (NASA, Boeing, ULA).

The summaries are based on Twitter posts from attendees. A big thanks to Thanks to Tanya Harrison (‏@tanyaofmars), Frank Slazer ‏(@FSlazer), Jeff Foust (‏@jeff_foust), Michael Simpson ‏(@SpaceSharer), and Melissa Sampson (‏@DrSampson) for the coverage.

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Video: New Shepard Escape Test in Slow Motion

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Video Caption: On October 5, 2016, we conducted an in-flight escape test of New Shepard’s full-envelope escape system at Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site.

This flight was our toughest test yet. We intentionally triggered an escape of the crew capsule in flight and at the most stressing condition: maximum dynamic pressure through transonic velocities. The test was conducted with the same reusable New Shepard booster that we had already flown four times.

Redundant separation systems severed the crew capsule from the booster at the same time we ignited the escape motor. The escape motor vectored thrust to steer the capsule to the side, out of the booster’s path. The high acceleration portion of the escape lasted less than two seconds, but by then the capsule was hundreds of feet away and diverging quickly. It traversed twice through transonic velocities – the most difficult control region – during the acceleration burn and subsequent deceleration. The capsule then coasted, stabilized by reaction control thrusters, until it started descending. Its three drogue parachutes deployed near the top of its flight path, followed shortly thereafter by main parachutes.

The capsule’s escape motor slammed the booster with 70,000 pounds of off-axis force delivered by searing hot exhaust. The aerodynamic shape of the vehicle quickly changed from leading with the conical capsule to leading with the ring fin, and this all happened at Max Q.

The booster was not explicitly engineered to survive an in-flight escape. The fact that the booster survived the escape, climbed to apogee and returned to execute its fifth controlled vertical landing is testament to the overall robustness inherent in its design.

Gradatim Ferociter!

New Shepard Moment of Separation Photo

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

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

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Blue Origin Abort Test Successful, Booster Survives

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Blue Origin conducted a successful abort test today in West Texas, with its New Shepard capsule separating from its booster 45 seconds after liftoff.

The capsule parachuted to the ground safely in what Blue Origin said appeared to be a nominal flight. The booster, which was not expected to survive the ignition of the escape motor, continued it ascent before touching down on the ground.

It was the fifth successful flight of booster and the seventh flight for the capsule. Both vehicles will be retired to make way for newer systems.

 

Blue Origin Delays New Shepard In-flight Abort Test

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Blue Origin’s pusher escape system rockets the New Shepard crew capsule away from the launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin’s pusher escape system rockets the New Shepard crew capsule away from the launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has delayed the New Shepard in-flight abort test scheduled for Tuesday due to weather constraints. The company will attempt the test on Wednesday. The webcast will begin at 10:45 a.m. EDT at www.blueorigin.com.

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Blue Origin to Conduct In-flight Abort Test on Tuesday

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The reusable New Shepard space vehicle ascends through clear skies to an apogee of 339,138 feet. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The reusable New Shepard space vehicle ascends through clear skies to an apogee of 339,138 feet. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin will conduct an in-flight abort test of its New Shepard capsule on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The company will webcast the flight starting at 10:50 am EDT at http://blueorigin.com.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn Undergoes Wind Tunnel Testing

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