Recently, Blue Origin released a photo of the completed interior of its suborbital capsule. Those following Blue Origin’s efforts for some time were rewarded with the couches the spaceflight participants will strap themselves into prior to launch. These couches are shown in the reclining position, just as they were for the Space Shuttle and for the Apollo capsule. They were also show somewhat parallel to the large observation windows so each person can watch the ascent of the New Shepard booster from the launch pad all the way up to the capsule apogee above 100 km.
During the press release and event announcing the completed capsule interior, Blue Origin’s CEO Jeff Bezos also announced that the company would launch its first test flights with its own astronauts in the latter part of 2017. Several of these flights with men and women must be launched to get results from actual flight conditions. They will have biometric sensors and video cameras trained on them throughout the flight.
Instrumental in these suborbital test flights will be the test astronauts response to weightlessness and if there is any indication of space adaptation syndrome, or nausea. It is unlikely there will be any because these test astronauts will only experience weightlessness for several minutes, before having to strap themselves back into their couches for the reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The Blue Origin test astronauts will not be the first private (nongovernment) suborbital astronauts. That distinction goes to the test pilots who flew SpaceShipOne into suborbital space over a decade ago. However, Blue Origin’s test astronauts will be the first commercial individuals to fly into suborbital space aboard a conventional, liquid-fueled rocket.
Once Blue Origin has completed is test flights with its personnel, all flight data has been carefully evaluated and positive determination that commercial flights can begin, the FAA will grant Blue Origin is license to fly spaceflight participants into suborbital space on a regular basis. It should be remembered that this company was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos. It has been seventeen years of long, hard, persistent work to get to this point. The company’s motto is spot on: Gradatim Ferociter, latin for “Step by step, ferociously.”
The BE-4 Engine begins development tests
Blue Origin also has orbital spaceflight ambitions. To achieve the goal of launching commercial payloads and spaceflight participants into Earth orbit, a much larger and more powerful engine needed to be developed. The small BE-3 engine could not be clustered to achieve this; it was the goal of Blue Origin to develop a larger engine to do the job.
In 2015, acquired the land surrounding the deactivated Launch Complex 36 near Kennedy Space Center. This launch complex was once part of “missile row” at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Blue Origin announced a new orbital launch vehicle building would be constructed not far away, and the launch complex itself would be completely reconfigured and built to launch its larger orbital rocket. Later, this rocket was given the name, New Glenn.
The larger BE-4 engine has been under development for years and will soon undergo its rigorous full engine test program. The BE-4 uses liquid methane and liquid oxygen as its propellants. It will provide 550,000 pounds of thrust (2,400 kN). The New Glenn first stage will be powered by a cluster of seven BE-4 engines. The second stage will be powered by a single BE-4 engine. This will be adequate to get the payloads or capsule to low Earth orbit. A potential third stage would be powered by a BE-3 vacuum-rated engine.
The future of commercial suborbital and orbital personal spaceflight looks very bright, and Blue Origin will be at the forefront of this exciting new era.
Anthony Young ©2017 Personal Spaceflight Advisors LLC
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