Amazon supremo Bezos' Blue Origin blows its top over Texas desert
Successful escape capsule test and dual landing
Vid + pic The fifth flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket saw a successful blast-off for the crew capsule, as the company simulated an emergency escape for future crews.
The rocket rose up over the Texas desert and hit nearly 500mph around 45 seconds after liftoff, when the emergency escape system kicked in.
Rockets around the pressurized capsule fired a short burst equaling 70,000lb of thrust, accelerating the capsule 400mph in seconds to blast it free of the rocket.
The crew has to be able to safely free itself from the main rocket in the event of an accident; otherwise the US Federal Aviation Administration won't grant the company certification to carry human passengers. Judging from Wednesday's case they will survive it, but you wouldn't want to see the inside of the capsule.
Shortly after the capsule broke free, it began to tumble wildly until the drogue chutes deployed. In the event of a crew experiencing that, the potential astronauts would likely be extensively redecorating the inside of the capsule.
Once the capsule's three parachutes had deployed, the hardware slowed to just 16mph. The capsule is equipped with retro rockets that slow the rate of fall to just a few miles per hour – but they failed to fire.
It had been feared that the blast-off of the capsule would damage or even destroy the New Shepard rocket, but it blithely sailed on through the flames and continued up to an altitude of over 300,000 feet. The controllers had to throttle it back after the separation, however, as it had lost around 8,000lb of payload and was going too fast.
The last ever touchdown for this rocket
After reaching apogee, the booster descended, extending its stabilizers to keep the rocket perpendicular. After deploying flaps to slow down, the main engine restarted and the rocket came down for a perfect landing.
Sadly it'll be the last flight for the New Shepard rocket, which is now going to end its days in a museum. Crewed flight using the next rocket built should take place next year, with commercial fights beginning in 2018 if certification is granted. ®