Update, October 3: Because of poor weather, Blue Origin has postponed the in-flight escape test until 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, will test a crew capsule escape system for its New Shepard rocket on Tuesday.
As Blue Origin did with its recent parachute failure test, this experiment will be also be streamed live by Blue Origin, and will give space enthusiasts and astronauts alike an opportunity to observe how the rocket responds in high-stress conditions.
Although the New Shepard has already had four successful launches since November 2015, the test is a precaution to guarantee absolute safety for its potential passengers. The New Shepard’s escape system is built differently from Bezos’s other rockets. The escape motor in the New Shepard is mounted beneath the capsule, therefore causing the motor to push the capsule away from a failing booster. It “pushes rather than pulls,” Blue Origin explains on its website.
During the test, the mission control team will trigger an escape alarm while the airflow is supersonic — or faster than the speed of sound. The escape launch will take place once the rocket is at 16,000 feet, approximately 45 seconds after liftoff. During the escape procedure, the motor fires for two seconds, propelling the crew capsule to thrust away from the booster. Once the capsule is separated, it makes its descent back to Earth armed with reaction control thrusters and parachutes, enabling a swift and steady coast.
Since the company’s success of its last crew escape test on October 19, 2012, next week’s test should bode well for Blue Origin. Although back then, the test only involved firing the crew capsule from the launch pad. This test is more advanced, as the capsule is attached to a booster.
Here’s how Blue Origin sees the test going:
“We’d really like to retire it after this test and put it in a museum,” Blue Origin announced. But: “Sadly, that’s not likely. This test will probably destroy the booster. The booster was never designed to survive an in-flight escape.”
“Our next flight is going to be dramatic, no matter how it ends,” Bezos said. That means mark your calendars for this Tuesday.