Private spaceflight company Blue Origin, launched by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is planning another test flight of its New Shepard rocket, which will bring it closer to flying real humans in space in a very concrete way.
The 15th launch of New Shepard, published under the name NS-15, is scheduled for Wednesday. It will start and end with the humans inside the crew capsule, although none of them will actually fly that day.
Instead, “employees standing as astronauts of the Blue Origin” will perform “operational exercises”, which, according to a statement at the company, climb into capsules and carry out communication checks from their seats. The capsule hatch will then be closed for a short time during the actual crew launch, but the astronauts will exit the capsule before the actual launch.
New Shepard would then explode on the edge of space as the company has already done 14 times successfully. The capsule would detach from the rocket booster and make a soft landing in the West Texas desert with the aid of a parachute. At that point, the astronauts designated for the day will again reach inside the capsule and rehearse the hatch opening and exit.
The booster capsule will make a vertical landing away from the launch pad a few minutes before touch down.
Wednesday’s mission is as followsThis included the latest version of the crew capsule, which is similar or at least very close to the company’s first paying customers.
Five years into its test schedule, it is unclear when the first commercial flights will take place. The company is calling the NS-15 an important “verification step” before flying to astronauts.
The launch window for the NS-15 from the company’s facility near Van Horn, Texas opens at 6 a.m. Wednesday (8 a.m. CT) and runs through Saturday afternoon.
Blue Origin currently plans to begin live webcast coverage an hour before the launch window opens. We will post it here as soon as it becomes available.
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