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Image Credit: Blue Origin.

Blue Origin launches first passengers atop New Shepard

Blue Origin earlier today, July 20, 2021, successfully launched the first passengers atop their New Shepard rocket into space. The single-stage, liquid-fueled, fully-reusable launch vehicle blasted off from the company’s launch site in West Texas, carrying Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen into space.

New Shepard’s flight profile

Liftoff occured at 08:12 CDT (local time) / 13:12 UTC. After about a minute of flight, New Shepard passed through the point of maximum aerodynamic loads (Max-Q) soon followed by the breaking of the sound barrier. At T+2 min 20 s, the rocket’s liquid hydrogen (LH2) / liquid oxygen (LOX) fueled single BE-3 engine shut down and the crew capsule separated from the booster stage. At this point, the four passengers began experiencing micro gravity for several minutes.

Launch of New Shepard and the four passengers. Image Credit: Blue Origin.
Launch of New Shepard and the four passengers. Image Credit: Blue Origin.

Upon reaching their apogees, both the capsule and the booster started descending back down to Earth. Around 5 1/2 minutes after launch, the first stage deployed ring and wedge fins to stabilize its descent. About a minute later, New Shepard deployed several drag brakes to slow down the booster. During the descent, the rocket used its aft fins to guide itself to the landing site. Just 15 seconds later at an altitude of about one kilometer, the BE-3 engine reignited to slow the rocket down even further. At T+7 min 23 s, New Shepard’s first stage safely landed back on Earth at its dedicated landing pad. The stage will be reused on a future flight of the rocket.

Landing of New Shepard's first stage. Image Credit: Blue Origin.
Landing of New Shepard’s first stage. Image Credit: Blue Origin.
The booster stage back on Earth. Image Credit: Blue Origin.
The booster stage back on Earth. Image Credit: Blue Origin.

Eight minutes 21 second after liftoff, the crew capsule at first deployed three drogue chutes to stabilize itself and then three main parachutes to slow down. At ~T+10 min 18 s, the capsule fired multiple retro rockets at its bottom and softly touched down back on the planet not far from where it had launched just a couple of minutes earlier.

Landing of the crew capsule. Image Credit: Blue Origin.
Landing of the crew capsule. Image Credit: Blue Origin.

Almost immediately after the capsule’s landing, recovery forces detached the parachutes and opened the hatch to allow the passengers to egress the vehicle.

Today’s flight was Blue Origin’s sixteenth New Shepard flight and the rocket’s first crewed mission. Bezos, Bezos, Funk and Daemen during their flight reached an altitude of 107 kilometers above sea level and a maximum velocity of 3,595 km/h.

The Crew

The rocket carried a crew of four, consisting of Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemon. Wally Funk is one of the “Mercury 13”, a group of thirteen women chosen in the 1960s, during NASA’s Mercury program, to be trained as potential astronauts. Unfortunately the Mercury 13 program got cancelled before any of the women got the chance to fly to space. With an age of 82, Wally Funk today became the oldest person to fly to space. The fourth crew member of the NS-16 mission was Oliver Daemon from the Netherlands. He was the company’s first commercial customer to be launched atop the rocket. With an age of 18, Oliver Daemon became the youngest person to reach space, a record which most likely won’t be broken for quite a while.


Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMHhXzpwupU&t=7s

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