Blue Origin New Shepard reusable rocket has first development test flight

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin’s New Shepard space vehicle as it makes its first developmental test flight.

Yesterday Blue Origin flew the first developmental test flight of our New Shepard space vehicle. Our 110,000-lbf thrust liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen BE-3 engine worked flawlessly, powering New Shepard through Mach 3 to its planned test altitude of 307,000 feet. Guidance, navigation and control was nominal throughout max Q and all of ascent. The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect. Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.

In fact, if New Shepard had been a traditional expendable vehicle, this would have been a flawless first test flight. Of course one of our goals is reusability, and unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent. Fortunately, we’ve already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. Also, assembly of propulsion module serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway – we’ll be ready to fly again soon.

They continue to be big fans of the vertical takeoff, vertical landing architecture. They chose VTVL because it’s scalable to very large size. We’re already designing New Shepard’s sibling, her Very Big Brother – an orbital launch vehicle that is many times New Shepard’s size and is powered by our 550,000-lbf thrust liquefied natural gas, liquid oxygen BE-4 engine.

Designed and developed in-house by Blue Origin at the company’s research and development center outside Seattle, the BE-3 features a “tap-off” design, in which the main chamber combustion gases are used to power the engine’s turbopumps. Tap-off is particularly well-suited to human spaceflight because of its single combustion chamber and graceful shutdown mode.

Jeff Bezos says his vision is he wants to see millions of people living and working in space. Bezos’ private spaceflight company Blue Origin is currently working with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) to build a new liquid rocket engine called the BE-4. They plan to have rockets flying payloads with the new engine in 2019.

The vehicle Bezos’ company is working on uses a modern booster engine, which is said to be more efficient than those made 20-30 years ago, reports The Washington Post. Bezos also said the vehicle is autonomous, so there’s no need to send test pilots when they’re running trials with it.

The BE4 will produce 550,000 pounds of thrust and is propelled by a mix of liquefied natural gas and oxygen. The fuels are pressurized by a single turbopump before being burned, which scientists say may make it more efficient than using a two-prop system.

Blue Origin is developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. This is a long-term effort, which we’re pursuing incrementally, step by step. We’re currently focused on developing reusable launch vehicles utilizing rocket-powered Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) technology.

Aerospace manufacturing and design has details on the BE-4 engine.

Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. ULA is investing in the engineering and development of the BE-4 to enable availability for national security, civil, human, and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 engine has been underway for nearly three years and testing of BE-4 components is ongoing at Blue Origin’s test facilities in West Texas. Blue Origin recently commissioned a new large test facility for the BE-4 to support full engine testing.

SOURCES – Blue Origin, Business Insider, Washington post, onlineamd, Youtube

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