On Wednesday, January 23rd, at 6:50 AM Pacific time, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard launch vehicle stuffed with experimental equipment. Jeff Bezos, the founder of the rocket company as well as Amazon, had originally scheduled the launch for last month, but it had been delayed.
This last one was its tenth attempt.
Unlike other platforms, Blue Origin’s is a sub-orbital space-visiting one. Unlike the intricate and very complicated mothership-spaceship combo Virgin Galactic uses, Blue Origin’s method is extremely traditional.
Virgin Galactic’s vehicle made it to the edge of space last month after three test launches.
The New Shepard fires straight up into the sky and as it reaches escape velocity, it pops off its capsule before the line which officially delineates space from Earth’s atmosphere – called the Karman line. After the capsule finishes shooting upwards, it floats lightly back under a parachute to the surface.
Usually, vehicles like this one put what’s called a “Mannequin Skywalker” or a dummy in as a stand-in during the tests, the New Shepard is chock full of experiments. Wednesday’s launch was available to watch live.
You can read all about the other nine experiments – most having been up in other vehicles, sometimes Blue Origin ones – flying through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. Of course, they are repeating and studying to design the best vehicle possible.
NASA’s Kathryn Hurlbert, who heads up the Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 project at Johnson Space Center, said, “The opportunity to re-fly our payload is helping us not only validate and compare data for different flight profiles but also test modifications and upgrades.”
If your lab has some experiments you would like to test on a sub-orbital rocket, check out all the spots for flight opportunities on future NASA-sponsored launches, and as soon as the shutdown ends, get to the administrators.