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Blue Origin completes another unmanned suborbital test flight of New Shepard

Capitalism in space: Blue Origin today successfully completed another unmanned suborbital test flight of New Shepard, and in doing so also rehearsed the boarding and disembarking procedures they will use when they finally fly this craft with people on board.

Blue Origin personnel rehearsed how customers will board the six-seat crew capsule before Wednesday’s launch. Four employees stood in as astronauts and rode to the launch pad inside a Ford SUV with two support crew members.

After arriving at the pad, the astronaut stand-ins climbed stairs up the launch pad tower and walked across an access gantry leading to the spacecraft sitting atop the already-fueled New Shepard booster. Two employees — Gary Lai, Blue Origin’s New Shepard designer, and Audrey Powers, the company’s vice president of legal and compliance — entered the capsule through the hatch and strapped into seats. … After a few minutes, Lai and Powers exited the spacecraft and the crew evacuated the launch pad before liftoff.

…Blue Origin crews at the West Texas test site also practiced how they will help passengers out of the capsule after landing. Recovery teams quickly converged on the spacecraft after touchdown in the desert, and approached the capsule with mobile stairs and other equipment.

While rehearsing these procedures seems a good idea, there appears to be a bit of blarney in this whole show. Considering that this was their 15th New Shepard flight and the second for this spacecraft, it seems to me that these procedures could have rehearsed during one of those earlier flights, or even during any one of many dress rehearsal countdowns that they should have done previously, not on a flight itself.

Blue Origin has not announced when the first manned suborbital flight will be. In their last prediction in January they had said the first manned flight would happen in April, something that has now clearly not happened.

That flight is now more than five years behind schedule, based on the company’s promises back in 2016. when they flew New Shepard almost every other month and predicted the first manned flights in 2017. Then, Jeff Bezos hired Bob Smith to be Blue Origin’s CEO, and the company’s progress on New Shepard crawled to a stop.

It is now questionable whether this company will even get its first suborbital tourist flight launched before SpaceX completes its first orbital tourist flight in September. At that point why should anyone who can afford to pay for a space flight choose New Shepard and its mere five minutes of weightlessness when they go to orbit with SpaceX and spend days there? It might cost less, but it will still cost a lot, and the cost-benefit analysis sure doesn’t favor Blue Origin’s business model any more.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

6 comments

  • Doubting Thomas

    I zipped through the recorded YouTube stream of the launch quickly. The whole group of talking heads seemed like they were really really shoveling a lot of you know what.

    How many times do they have to fly that stupid dummy before somebody that built the thing has the courage to get in it for the 12 minute flight? I found myself hoping that BO would be brave enough to put somebodies pet hamster in the capsule as a real expression of confidence.

    New Shepard??? It doesn’t seem like anybody in BO has one one hundredths of the b*11s of Old Shepard. Maybe as part of the tribute to Admiral Shepard they are recreating NASA’s loss of nerve that resulted in Yuri taking the space prize for the USSR.

    As our beloved leader says “C’mon Mannnn!!”

  • mkent

    At that point why should anyone who can afford to pay for a space flight choose New Shepard and its mere five minutes of weightlessness when they go to orbit with SpaceX and spend days there?

    A seat on a private crew Dragon flight costs $55 million. A seat on SpaceShip 2 costs $250,000, and New Shepard is expected to cost about the same. There are a whole lot of people who can afford $250,000 who can’t afford $55 million.

  • pawn

    My understanding is that BO got caught up in putting together the paperwork and infrastructure for being “man-rated”. The fact is that up until just recently, no insurance company would touch a NS passenger. Imagine losing your multi-billionaire CEO in a fiery glitch caused by using an inappropriate pressure sensor.

    I would be glad to hear from someone who knows otherwise.

  • Mike a

    I doubt Jeff B is hopping on board anytime soon. Hahaha.

    In related news, Bob’s favorite snake oil salesman CEO sold off another $150 Mil in his “space company.”

    I knew when I saw them listed in Kathy Wood’s Space ETF that Ole RICHARD couldn’t resist the hype bump to his stock price.

  • Star Bird

    If there was anything we should send into Orbit it would be the Democrat Party

  • Doubting Thomas

    Star

    Here Here!!

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