Amazon founder’s Blue Origin space firm carries out maiden test flight of re-usable spacecraft in Texas
Blue Origin, a private space company created and owned by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, successfully launched its New Shepard spacecraft this week.
New Shepard, which is comprised of a booster rocket section and a crew module, took off on its maiden test flight on Wednesday in the first of a series of tests for the spacecraft which Bezos hopes will one day take astronauts, space tourists and scientists into orbit.
The booster section of the spacecraft is designed to return to Earth, just like tech rival Elon Musk’s experimental rocket booster Falcon 9. However, despite the crew module landing safely, the rocket was not recovered successfully.
Bezos was present at the launch at Blue Origin’s West Texas facility. The spacecraft climbed to an altitude of 58 miles, where the unmanned crew module separated at then performed a successful parachute descent.
“In fact, if New Shepard had been a traditional expendable vehicle, this would have been a flawless first test flight. Of course one of our goals is reusability, and unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent. Fortunately, we’ve already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. Also, assembly of propulsion module serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway – we’ll be ready to fly again soon.”
Blue Origin is a secretive company which was founded in 2000. Bezos has made no secret of his ambition however, and despite failing to recover the reusable rocket, Elon Musk and SpaceX now have stiff competition in the recyclable launch race.
Bezos said: “We continue to be big fans of the vertical takeoff, vertical landing architecture. We chose VTVL because it’s scalable to very large size. We’re already designing New Shepard’s sibling, her Very Big Brother – an orbital launch vehicle that is many times New Shepard’s size and is powered by our 550,000-lbf thrust liquefied natural gas, liquid oxygen BE-4 engine.”