Watch Blue Origin fly its first capsule that’s designed to send people to space and back
Blue Origin's New Shepard Crew capsule is designed to send up to six people to the edge of space and back. (Blue Origin Photoillustration)
Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space company plans to live stream the first test flight of its first passenger-friendly space capsule on Thursday.
If everything goes according to plan, Blue Origin will launch a never-before-flown New Shepard crew capsule and booster from its West Texas facility on an unscrewed suborbital space flight as early as 9:45 a.m. CT (7:45 a.m. PT) . The coverage will be streamed via the Blue Origin website and YouTube.
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The reporting should begin 30 minutes before the start, the exact time depending on the weather and technical readiness.
The capsule was named RSS First Step. RSS stands for "Reusable Spaceship", while First Step refers to the intention of Blue Origin to use the vehicle for flights with a crew from the end of this year.
Blue Origin's previous 13 New Shepard test flights used two earlier generation capsules and three earlier generation boosters. In a pre-launch advisory, Blue Origin says the new crew capsule has been fitted with upgrades to the astronaut experience - including improvements to the acoustic and temperature control system, plus display panels, speakers and microphones with push-to-talk buttons for everyone of the six seats in the cabin.
This mission, known as NS-14, will also test a range of communications and security alert systems. A sensor-equipped test dummy nicknamed Mannequin Skywalker will take one of the seats.
Among the payloads packed on board the capsule are more than 50,000 postcards sent in by students around the world under the auspices of Blue Origin's Club for the Future educational campaign. Some of these postcards are even stowed in Mannequin Skywalker's pockets.
Previous stacks of postcards were flown during the New Shepard test missions in December 2019 and October 2020.
Blue Origin executives believed New Shepard would now take over crewed suborbital flights - but that was before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Coronavirus complications have been added to the errors typically encountered when testing a new spaceship.
The company is not yet taking reservations for passenger flights and has not yet set the ticket price for New Shepard travel. But in 2019, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said the price for the first commercial passengers would likely be in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" range.
Blue Origin builds the hardware for the New Shepard suborbital program at its headquarters in Kent, Washington. The company is also working on a New Glenn orbital-class rocket, which will be built and launched in Florida, and a lunar landing system that would be built for NASA in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.
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