Blue Origin Successfully Completes First Test Flight, After Jeff Bezos Mission

Blue Origin has reused the New Shepard rocket that carried former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to space last month, in another successful test mission.

Bezos’s space venture announced on Thursday it had successfully completed the 17th New Shepard mission to space and back, in a time of 10 minutes and fifteen seconds.

What is perhaps more remarkable is that this was the 8th consecutive flight for this particular vehicle, demonstrating the re-usability and reliability of this rocket model.

Successful flight

Blue Origin said the flight, which had no crew, carried “payloads supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program and included a second flight of the Deorbit, Descent, and Landing (DDL) Sensor Demonstration under a NASA Tipping Point partnership.”

The DDL demonstration, which flew for the second time mounted on the exterior of New Shepard’s booster, tested technology designed to achieve high-accuracy landing for future Moon missions.

This aims to enable long-term lunar exploration.

“After flying more than 100 payloads to space on New Shepard, today’s 8th flight of this vehicle carried NASA-sponsored and commercial experiments, including the second flight of NASA’s lunar landing technology that will one day allow us to further explore the Moon’s surface,” said Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin.

“We are grateful to NASA for partnering with us once again on this experiment, and we are proud of the Blue Origin team for executing a great flight in support of all our customers,” said Smith.

Blue Origin of course is locked in a bitter dispute with NASA at the moment, after the US space agency in April awarded Elon Musk’s SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build the Artemis lunar lander to carry humans to the moon, as early as 2024.

NASA’s decision to award the contract to SpaceX triggered a formal protest from Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin, filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Jeff Bezos in July offered to personally cover up to $2bn in NASA costs if the agency also offered it a lunar lander contract.

But on 2 August 2020, the GAO rejected Blue Origin’s challenge of NASA’s $2.9 billion (£2bn) lunar lander contract deal with Space X.

Last week Blue Origin filed a lawsuit in federal court against the government, as part of its ongoing allegation that the US space agency wrongly awarded a lucrative contract solely to SpaceX earlier this year.

A decision of that is expected in November.

Space tourism

Blue Origin is currently competing directly in the emerging space tourism industry with Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic.

Sir Richard won the billionaire spacerace, when he beat Amazon’s Jeff Bezos into outer space – a race widely expected to kick-start the space tourism industry.

Virgin Galactic have priced a ticket to space at $450,000, but Blue Origin have yet to reveal its price for a seat aboard its vehicle.

That said, one of its tickets sold for an eye watering $28 million in an auction.

Earlier this week it was reported that Blue Origin has lost more than a dozen key leaders and top engineers since Bezos’s flight on 20 July.

There are reports of frustration with management and a slow, bureaucratic structure.

Blue Origin is hoping to develop the tech it has used for New Shepard into a spacecraft capable of landing on the moon.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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