Kent, Wash.-based company Blue Origin conducted another successful flight today, January 23, 2019, at their west Texas facility. But the mission this time, their 10th so far, was not to flight-test their New Shepherd capsule or rocket, but rather to launch a variety of NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads under the agency’s Flight Opportunities program.
Owned by Billionaire entrepreneur and currently the richest person alive, Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has been making progress at a steady rate the last few years in developing and testing a fully reusable, suborbital New Shepherd flight system and making plans to resurrect dormant Cape Canaveral Launch Complex-36 (LC-36) to fly from, along with their giant 100 meter tall orbital ‘New Glenn’ rocket, which is expected to debut as soon as 2021.
“Step by step, we’re getting close to human flight. And all of this learning is being incorporated into New Glenn too“, said Bezos. “I did wear my lucky boots today, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually the incredible Blue Origin team“.
After over a month of delays, ranging from bad weather to unspecified ground infrastructure issues, the rocket took flight on its 4th mission at 9:50am EST, ascending quickly to 2,226 mph and sending the capsule to 350,775 feet (66 miles) for several minutes of microgravity for the experiments, followed by return and landing of both the rocket and capsule back to the launch site.
New Shepard now has 10 consecutive successful launches, 9 consecutive successful booster landings, 3 consecutive successful escape tests, and 11 consecutive successful crew capsule landings (including a pad escape).
The payloads onboard the mission, named ‘NS-10’, aim to help with in-space propulsion technologies, habitation systems, science instruments and other capabilities.
The company is already building their rocket fleet too, with different variants for different purposes. One version will fly payloads only (such as the rocket used in today’s flight), while another would be crew only.
And they are far along in their flight test program too, so much so that they hope to launch the first crewed mission on their New Shepard workhorse by the end of this year – which will also sport the largest windows to fly in space too.