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Jeff Bezos’ Space company Blue Origin conducted the final test flight of its New Shepard rocket at its facility in the West Texas desert on Tuesday.
The mission had no passengers on board, although New Shepard starts with a capsule on top that is supposed to carry up to six people for a mission. Known as NS-13, this mission marked the system’s 13th test flight – as well as a record launch in a row for the rocket amplifier that carries the capsule, having landed six times after previous missions.
NS-13 was originally scheduled to launch on September 24, but a problem with the missile’s power supply delayed the mission.
Blue Origin launches a New Shepard missile from its Texas facility.
Blue origin | gif from @thesheetztweetz
New Shepard is designed to take people off the edge of space on a journey, with the capsules reaching an altitude of more than 100 kilometers on previous test flights. The capsule spends up to 10 minutes in weightlessness before returning to Earth. The massive windows offer passengers a view.
While it carried no crew, the NS-13 mission contained a number of payloads, such as: B. Microgravity Experiments and Research. Blue Origin said there are 12 payloads on board from paying customers, most notably NASA’s SPLICE (“Safe and Precise Landing – Developing Integrated Skills”) Technology demonstration.
SPICE is designed to give spacecraft such as lunar landers “artificial eyes” to help them find areas that are safe to land. NASA technology is mounted on the New Shepard booster and uses a combination of terrain navigation, Doppler lidar, and a descent computer to target the booster’s landing zone. The goal of SPICE technology is to enable a spaceship to land autonomously on the lunar surface within about 300 feet of its intended destination in what NASA calls a “highly accurate landing”. According to Blue Origin, the NS-13 is the first of two scheduled flights with the SPLICE demonstrator on board.
Blue Origin performed last a test flight from New Shepard in December 2019. Since the company flew three New Shepard flights last year, the nine-month hiatus is unusual – but Blue Origin received internal push-back from employees When it was planned to conduct a mission shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, The Verge reported in April. At the time, Blue Origin announced to The Verge that it was monitoring the coronavirus issue and that it considered “safety to be our highest priority”.
The company has not yet flown any passengers with its missiles. CEO Bob Smith said earlier this year that the company’s New Shepard rocket would have to fly three or four more test flights before it could get people on board.
Bezos is personally funding the development of Blue Origin by selling some of his shares Amazon. While he previously said he sells about $ 1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund the space company, Bezos recently increased its share salesHe sold more than $ 7.2 billion this year and $ 2.8 billion in 2019 – suggesting he has increased his annual investment in Blue Origin.