More delays for New Shepard


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Capitalism in space: Bob Smith, the CEO of Blue Origin, revealed this week that the first manned flights of its reusable suborbital New Shepard spacecraft will likely not happen in 2019, as previously announced.

Blue Origin, which is headquartered in Kent, Wash., has filed plans with the Federal Communications Commission for at least two more New Shepard test flights from its test and launch facility in West Texas. These would be the 12th and 13th flights of the New Shepard test program.

On Tuesday, Blue Origin sought reauthorization of the next test flight for a six-month period running from Nov. 1 to next May. The existing authorization is set to expire on Dec. 1, which suggests that the company wants to reserve more time to prepare for the test.

Whether those next two test flights will use the capsule they have flown previously, or a new capsule, dubbed “RSS First Step”, that they intend to put the first people on, could determine how much of a delay to expect. That new capsule is built but it has never flown. If the next two flights use the previous test capsule, this would guarantee even more delays before Blue Origin flies people.

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8 comments

  • Chris Lopes

    Why were the plans filed with the FCC and not the FAA?

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The FCC have to authorized the radio frequencies use by Blue Origin for communications to and from the New Sheppard during the flights.

  • Chris Lopes

    @Zed
    Thanks for clearing that up for me. So many regulators, so little time.

  • Col Beausabre

    Back when I was getting my private pilot license (issued by the FAA), I had to get a radio license as well (Restricted Radiotelephone Operator) (issued by the FCC). Why the FAA couldn’t issue the licenses on behalf of the FCC is beyond me – obviously inside the Beltway turf wars and staff padding.

  • Scott M.

    I can’t fathom why they’re moving at such a snail’s pace. I’m not expecting a SpaceX-ish ‘slap that prototype together’ speed but their last (suborbital) test flight was back in May, for cryin’ out loud.

    Is it just that they didn’t get the expected number of people signing up for the New Shepard flights?

  • Edward

    Scott M.,
    Blue Origin has not yet started selling seats, so the slow progress is likely technical rather than financial or organizational.

    From the article: “[Blue Origin] said ticket sales would begin sometime after the first in-house astronauts fly.

    The article is frustrating in that it gives no indication as to why Blue Origin is not able to do its next test as soon as it had expected after the May test. Having been in test engineering, I know that the reason can be virtually anything from a problem during the May test that is not being solved as quickly as expected to a problem getting something ready for the next test. It could be a problem internal to the company or it could be a delay due to a vendor.

    Holding to a test schedule is difficult, because the nature of test planning and scheduling is to assume things work fairly well, but the reality is that unexpected problems rear their ugly heads, wreaking havoc like Godzilla in Tokyo, with all of management demanding to know when the test series is going to be done, because there is a schedule to keep or customers to mollify.

    Virgin Galactic’s problems are even worse.

  • Col Beausabre

    1) Is New Shepard going to become Old Shepard ?
    2) “Virgin Galactic’s problems are even worse.” And they begin with its boss
    3) Whatever happened to the “Trip to the Moon” tickets Pan Am sold back in 69? Did the customers ever get their money back?

  • Edward

    Col Beausabre asked: “Whatever happened to the “Trip to the Moon” tickets Pan Am sold back in 69? Did the customers ever get their money back?

    Excellent questions. I suspect that any obligation for the “First Moon Flights” Club cards (no-down-payment reservations) vaporized about the time that Pan Am did.
    https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/were-you-member-%E2%80%9Cfirst-moon-flights%E2%80%9D-club

    My understanding is that TWA also took some reservations. They, too, would have disappeared with that airline.

    However, I’m sure that new companies will be formed to provide similar services. They may not put card-holders or their heirs at the top of the list, but they probably can get on the list, especially since the prices will likely drop after the early birds help these companies make their return on investment.

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