As it continues to progress toward human flights, Blue Origin will perform another potentially unsafe uncrewed test today of its New Shepard rocket and spacecraft.
These latest tests were also created to push the booster to its limit, which led to Blue Origin noting the potential they could lose the booster, not least during the focused testing on the escape system, centered around a solid motor firing for two seconds to fly the capsule free of a failing booster.
Blue Origin launched a New Shepard rocket to space earlier in April. One company sent up a system created to provide reliable WiFi connectivity in space, while another added a number of textiles to the capsule so they could test their viability for use in space suits. Although it has not yet provided details, the company says it will fly "a high altitude escape motor test-pushing the rocket to its limits".
"It's an important test in our march towards flying humans into space, which hopefully will be soon", Ariane Cornell, head of astronaut strategy and sales at Blue Origin, during a company webcast of the test.
Update, 7:06 a.m. PT: The launch time has changed.
New Shepard's reusable booster comes in for a landing.
Blue Origin has provided only vague schedules about when human flights would begin, with company officials saying recently they anticipated starting to fly humans on test flights by the end of this year. Both elements are reusable; the rocket comes back to Earth for a vertical landing, and the capsule floats down softly under parachutes. "Just another day at the office", she said. (Blue Origin via YouTube) The New Shepard capsule makes its descent. "But we've got our eyes on the prize".
For Wednesday's flight, the spacecraft was loaded with a variety of experiments, including instrumentation provided by NASA to measure pressure, acoustics, acceleration and other factors, a WiFi experiment, a study of how fine particles interact in random collisions and another NASA experiment to learn more about how water droplets behave in microgravity. The company is also developing a heavy-lift rocket called New Glenn, as well as an even more powerful launcher known as New Armstrong.
The hardware used in previous tests has been retired and put on exhibit at Blue Origin's Florida rocket factory, where the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will be built.