Blue Origin Re-Launches Used New Shepard Suborbital Rocket
[Via Satellite 01-25-2016] Blue Origin has launched and landed its New Shepard booster for a second time, demonstrating reusability by crossing the Karman Line twice. New Shepard first entered space in November, reaching an altitude of 100.5 kilometers. This second mission reached an apogee of 101.7 kilometers before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse.
Blue Origin replaced the crew capsule parachutes, pyro igniters, and conducted functional and avionics checkouts to New Shepard ahead of its second mission. The company also made several software upgrades, including an upgrade that lets the vehicle set down at a position of convenience on the pad, prioritizing vehicle attitude ahead of precise lateral positioning. With the upgrade, New Shepard now initially targets the center of the launch pad upon return, but then sets down at a position of convenience rather than attempting to translate over to land exactly at the center if it is only off by a few feet.
In the Jan. 22 announcement, Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos said New Shepard is the smallest booster the company will ever build, and that an orbital vehicle is already more than three years into development. Blue Origin intends to reveal more about this orbital vehicle later this year, in addition to conducting more New Shepard flights and full-engine testing of the BE-4 engine currently under development for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan rocket.