Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard missile on a test flight over West Texas today (October 13).
The unscrewed New Shepard launcher, which consists of a reusable rocket and space capsule, was lifted from the company’s launch facility in West Texas at 8:36 a.m. CDT (9:36 a.m. EDT; 1336 GMT). After disconnecting from the rocket booster, the capsule gently fell back to earth while the booster made a flawless vertical landing.
Today’s test mission called NS-13 was the seventh consecutive test flight of this rocket amplifier and the 13th flight for Blue Origin̵
Connected: Blue Origin’s amazing NS-11 New Shepard test flight in photos
“Touch DOWN, New Shepard, let’s go,” said Blue Origin’s Caitlin Dietrich when the booster returned to Earth about 8 minutes after launch. “It never gets old.”
The capsule also landed clean, a little over 10 minutes after blowing off. “Congratulations to Team Blue today,” said Dietrich. “I’m a little out of breath, that’s really exciting, but it sounds like everything went well today.”
New Shepard took 12 scientific payloads into space and back for the NS-13 mission. One of those payloads was NASA’s deorbit, descent and landing sensor demonstration, which became the first payload ever to be launched into space on the outside of the New Shepard capsule rather than inside the spacecraft. The experiment will help develop new landing technologies for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to bring humans back to the moon in 2024.
“The experiment will examine how these technologies (sensors, computers and algorithms) work together to determine the location and speed of a spacecraft as it approaches the moon, so that a vehicle can autonomously land on the moon’s surface within 100 meters of a certain point can. ” Blue Origin officials said in a statement.
“The technologies could allow future missions – both crewed and robotic – to target landing sites that were not possible during the Apollo missions, such as regions with different terrain near craters,” the statement added. (Blue Origin also runs a national team that is developing a human-rated lunar lander for Artemis.)
Other NS-13 payloads include a floating plant growth system called µG-LilyPond, a new system for sampling asteroids in low-gravity environments, and a new cooling technology to prevent spacecraft from overheating.
Blue Origin also sent tens of thousands of postcards to space and back as part of the NS-13 mission. The postcards were written and submitted by elementary school students through Blue Origin’s non-profit Club for the Future.
On #NewShepard NS-13, the capsule will also carry tens of thousands of postcards from students around the world created for our nonprofit @clubforfuture. Some of the flying postcards will receive a special @NASA #Artemis postage to get students excited about the gift of the ?. pic.twitter.com/R0Cbto88vYSeptember 22, 2020
Today’s launch was postponed from September 24th when a power outage on its payloads forced Blue Origin to scrub the flight.
With 13 test flights, New Shepard could soon begin moving commercial passengers to suborbital space on 10-minute space tourism flights. But Blue Origin has not yet announced the date of its first crewed test flight, and the company has not yet started selling tickets.
Email Hanneke Weitering at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.