- Spaceflight company Blue Origin is scheduled to conduct a suborbital test of its New Shepard rocket at 12:40 p.m ET.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos started Blue Origin in 2000.
- New Shepard, named for NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, will launch from the company’s Van Horn, Texas launch facility.
Update 09/24/20 12:18 p.m. ET: After multiple delays, Blue Origin announced on Twitter that it has scrubbed today’s launch due to “a potential issue with the power supply to the experiments.”
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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s spaceflight company Blue Origin is scheduled to launch its New Shepard rocket to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere today. If all goes according to plan, the suborbital test—dubbed Mission NS-13—will lift off from Blue Origin’s Texas launch facility at 12:40 p.m. ET.
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If successful, this will be the 13th New Shepard mission and the seventh suborbital flight for this specific rocket—a record for rocket reuse. (SpaceX’s Falcon 9, by comparison, has only been reused six times.) A livestream of the launch will begin 30 minutes before the scheduled lift-off. You can watch it here:
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New Shepard is powered by a BE-3 engine, which generates roughly 110,000 pound-forces of thrust at launch. The rocket will ferry 12 payloads to the edge of space, including an experiment to test plants’ ability to grow and thrive in microgravity, and a test of a new way to attach small probes to asteroids.
One of the payloads—the Deorbit, Descent, and Landing Sensor Demonstration—is designed to test lunar landing technologies in advance of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put boots back on the moon by 2024. In April, Blue Origin’s National Team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Draper, and Northrop Grumman, became one of three teams—alongside SpaceX and Dynetics—selected to develop Human Landing Systems.
“The experiment will verify how these technologies (sensors, computers, and algorithms) work together to determine a spacecraft’s location and speed as it approaches the moon, enabling a vehicle to land autonomously on the lunar surface within 100 meters of a designated point,” Blue Origin said in a statement released Tuesday. The company plans to conduct one more test of the system before signing off.
While SpaceX has zipped through tests and launches at light speed, it’s been a bit of a slog for Blue Origin, which conducted the first test of its New Shepard rocket on April 29, 2015. Eventually, New Shepard will carry passengers around the world on suborbital flights.
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