Blue Origin to resume New Shepard test flights next week?


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Capitalism in space: An FAA airspace notice published yesterday strongly suggests that Blue Origin will resume test flights of its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft next week.

The Notice to Airman, or NOTAM, published by the FAA on its website Dec. 9 closes airspace above Blue Origin’s test site between Dec. 11 and 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern each day. The closure is to “provide a safe environment for rocket launch and recovery.” The NOTAM does not give additional details about the planned activities, but does identify Blue Origin as the point of contact regarding the airspace closure.

The flight will test a new capsule and propulsion unit, as the vehicle that was test flown multiple times in the previous test flights has been retired. What is interesting is that the company says it is building more than one. This will give them a fleet which will allow them a rapid launch rate.

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  • Edward

    From the article: “Those future test flights, she said then, would also use a version of the crew capsule that includes the large windows the company has promoted as the largest ever to be flown on a spacecraft. The capsule on the earlier test flights had only the locations of the windows painted on its exterior. ‘It’s a really important next step,’ … ‘We have a whole test program ahead of us.’

    I was wondering about the long time that it was taking between the previous tests and these next tests. At the time of the abort test, I had expected that they had already built the next rocket and would carry on fairly quickly. It is clear to me, now, that they have done some redesign based upon what they learned from the previous version, and the “whole test program” (rather than the second half or final stages of their test program) is to verify that the updated design works as planned.

    I do not know what certifications are required in order to fly paying passengers on a rocket, but I am sure that they are part of the next-step test-program.

    Meanwhile, it will be good to see them flying again, and it may satisfy my curiosity about how quickly they can turn around a rocket and a capsule — possibly different turnaround times.

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