Nicholas Schmidle has an interesting profile of Virgin Galactic test pilot Mark Stucky in the New Yorker that sheds some light on what’s been going on at Richard Branson’s space company. I’ve excerpted some interesting passages below.
If you’ve been watching the videos of SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity‘s first three powered flights and thinking to yourself, Gee, it looks like that thing really wants to roll…well, you’d be right. Here’s an account of the first flight on April 5. (more…)
VAN HORN, Texas (NASA PR) — On July 18, 2018, at 8:35 am PDT, Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard rocket from the company’s West Texas launch site with five NASA-supported technologies onboard. For each of these payloads, this flight was one in a series of suborbital demonstrations to facilitate technology development.
The flight helped researchers collect critical data to help them confirm theories, refine previous results and fine-tune experiments for future testing.
VAN HORN, Texas (muSpace PR)–Aerospace company Blue Origin launched today the New Shepard space vehicle, with its first payload from Asia to be on-board. The six-kilogram payload, sent by satellite company mu Space Corp, contains experiments and items from several universities and space agencies in Thailand.
VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard flew for the ninth time on July 18, 2018. During this mission, known as Mission 9 (M9), the escape motor was fired shortly after booster separation.
The Crew Capsule was pushed hard by the escape test and we stressed the rocket to test that astronauts can get away from an anomaly at any time during flight. The mission was a success for both the booster and capsule. Most importantly, astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing.
This isn’t the first time we’ve done this type of extreme testing on New Shepard. In October of 2012, we simulated a booster failure on the launch pad and had a successful escape.
Then in October of 2016, we simulated a booster failure in-flight at Max Q, which is the most physically strenuous point in the flight for the rocket, and had a completely successful escape of the capsule.
This test on M9 allowed us to finally characterize escape motor performance in the near-vacuum of space and guarantee that we can safely return our astronauts in any phase of flight.
Also on M9, New Shepard carried science and research payloads from commercial companies, universities and space agencies. Learn more about the payloads on board here.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle reached its highest altitude yet on Wednesday with a successful flight that saw the capsule reach 74 miles above the West Texas desert.
The new altitude record of 389,846 feet (73.8 miles/118.8 km) came courtesy of a high-altitude test of the capsule’s abort system, which activated after the booster stage had stopped firing. The capsule on the previous flight reached 351,000 feet (66.5 miles/107 km).
The rocket booster, making its third flight to space, touched down safely on a landing pad located two miles from where it launched. The capsule later made a soft landing nearby after a flight that lasted 11 minutes 17 seconds.
An instrumented flight dummy dubbed Mannequin Skywalker experienced 10 Gs during the abort test, according to commentary on Blue Origin’s webcast. The capsule also contained a number of experiments.
It was the ninth flight of the New Shepard system. Blue Origin plans to begin flying test passengers later this year and selling tickets to the public in 2019.
VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — An awesome feature of New Shepard is its modular interior design. While in the future it will feature six seats to fly people, we’re already flying science and education experiments for microgravity research.
On Mission 9, we welcome our third round of payload customers from commercial companies, universities and space agencies. They will share the cabin with Blue Origin’s Mannequin Skywalker for their flight to space.
Reuters has an update on Blue Origin’s progress toward flying people aboard its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft.
Executives at the company, started by Amazon.com Inc founder [Jeff] Bezos in 2000, told a business conference last month they planned test flights with passengers on the New Shepard soon, and to start selling tickets next year….
One Blue Origin employee with first-hand knowledge of the pricing plan said the company will start selling tickets in the range of about $200,000 to $300,000. A second employee said tickets would cost a minimum of $200,000. They both spoke on condition of anonymity as the pricing strategy is confidential.
The company will do the first test in space of its capsule escape system, which propels the crew to safety should the booster explode, “within weeks,” one of the employees said.
While Blue Origin has not disclosed its per-flight operating costs, Teal Group aerospace analyst Marco Caceres estimated each flight could cost the firm about $10 million. With six passengers per trip, that would mean losing millions of dollars per launch, at least initially.
Tickets aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo cost $250,000, although early ticket buyers will pay $200,000. Richard Branson’s company says it has sold around 650 tickets for the suborbital space hop.
The world’s launch providers were extremely busy in the first half of 2018, with China and the United States battling for the lead.
There with 55 orbital launches through the end of June, which amounted to a launch every 3.29 days or 79 hours. The total is more than half the 90 launches attempted in 2017. With approximately 42 missions scheduled for the last six months of the year, the total could reach 97. (more…)
Video Caption: This film documents how the first commercial text message ever sent to a spacecraft in space was accomplished. The rocket that contained Solstar’s space communicator, blasted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico USA on November 12, 2013. Solstar CEO, M. Brian Barnett, was the Principal Investigator for the #TextsToSpace mission. The text messages were sent from Solstar’s payload operation center located in Albuquerque, New Mexico USA.
The film was written, directed, and produced by Anne Lower and Geoff Reeves of Apogee and Shadow Works.
By Bob Granath NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
On Aug. 14, 2017, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was a commercial resupply mission delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Four days later, the agency’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
This kind of diverse activity is typical at a multi-user spaceport.
This was the eighth launch of the New Shepard system, and the second one with paid experiments aboard. An instrumented crash test dummy named Mannequin Skywalker was aboard for the second time.
The 10-minute flight was apparently nominal. The booster landed successfully and the capsule touched down under three parachutes. The capsule reached an apogee of 347,485 ft (106 km or 65.86 miles), which was a new record for the company but slightly below the 350,000 ft target altitude. (Update: Jeff Bezos tweeted that apogee was actually 351,000 ft, which is the planned operational altitude for future flights.)
Blue Origin officials have said they plan additional flight tests this year. It is possible they will fly test subjects on the vehicle by the end of 2018.
Launch preparations are underway for New Shepard’s 8th test flight, as we continue our progress toward human spaceflight. Currently targeting Sunday 4/29 with launch window opening up at 830am CDT. Livestream info to come. @BlueOrigin#GradatimFerociterpic.twitter.com/zAYpAGWB8C
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith says the next New Shepard flight will occur soon, Space Newsreports.
The next New Shepard test flight should take place soon. “Hopefully in the next few weeks,” Smith said.
Blue Origin has been making updates to the vehicle, he said, intended primarily to improve operability rather than performance or reliability. Those upgrades took longer than expected, he said, hence the four-month gap since the last test flight.
Once the test flights resume, Smith said the company planned several flights to verify the vehicle’s performance before putting people on board. “What we want to do is get a series of flights, test out the incorporation of some of the changes that we’ve made, and then make sure we’ve got a stable configuration that we can repeat several times before we get to first human flight,” he said. That first crewed flight, he said, is expected by the end of the year.
NEW YORK, Feb. 21, 2018 (Explorers Club PR) — What is fueling the next generation of exploration? Is it insatiable curiosity, new technologies, enduring spirit, or an extraordinary and exciting combination of all three?
These are some of the challenges that will face more than 1,000 of the world’s foremost explorers and guests at the 114th Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square New York, on Saturday March 10, 2018. (more…)
TEMPE, Ariz. (ASU PR) — Three Arizona State University student-led payload projects have been selected to launch into space on Blue Origin’s “New Shepard” space vehicle later this year.
The projects were selected during a competitive pitching competition Monday night at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. To earn a spot on “New Shepard,” students were challenged to do one of three things for their payload project: answer a science question, test technology development, or engage the five senses (smell, taste, sight, touch, sound) in space.