On October 5th, 11:36 am EDT, the Blue Origin test range in West Texas is busy with excitement. The New Shepard system (consisting of one booster rocket one crew capsule) is cleared for its fifth and final test flight. This time, the system owned by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin must run the crew capsule escape test, a highly difficult but vital maneuver, especially should the capsule carry people in suborbital space.
When the system reached an altitude of approximately 16,000 feet, the capsule blasted its own powerful escape engine, sending it further and higher away from its carrying booster.
The Crew Capsule Escape Test Went On Without Incident
It is this exact maneuver that a manned crew would undertake, should there be any life-threatening malfunction regarding the system. After the breathtaking leap from the booster, the jet stops and the first set of parachutes open, leaving the capsule to a clean and stable descent.
Shortly after, the second set of parachutes open. The crew capsule escape test is a success, the virtual space crew making a safe and clean landing, save for the huge dust cloud that lifted the moment a capsule touched ground.
The Booster Landing Was A Spectacle Of Its Own
Meanwhile, the booster itself would continue its ascent. A few minutes later, its engines were stopped, as the huge rocket would undertake its own landing. Even though this New Shepard booster had made four successful landings before, Blue Origin owner and Amazon.com founder, Jeff Bezos, had predicted a blaze of glory ending for the trusty rocket. Bezos had explained that the blast from the crew capsule would tilt the booster, changing its ascent and making it crash in a huge bang.
However, what ensued seemed taken out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. After the crew capsule escape test had ended, the booster began its fast but vertical descent. As it got closer and closer to the ground, the engines were fired again, stabilizing the booster and leading to a slow and perfect landing, and a huge round of applause from everyone watching.
“We will reward it for its service with a retirement party and put it in a museum,” Bezos wrote on his blog about the booster.
The New Shepard system (named for American spaceflight pioneer Alan Shepard), is designed for manned flights to and from suborbital space.
Image source: Wikipedia