New Shepard

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New Shepard Launch on 29 April 2015.
New Shepard landing with parachutes on 29 April 2015.

The New Shepard reusable launch system is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL),[1] suborbital manned rocket that is being developed by Blue Origin, a company owned by founder and businessman Jeff Bezos, as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism.[2] The New Shepard makes reference to the first United States astronaut in space, Alan Shepard.[3] On 23 November 2015, after reaching 100.5 km (330,000 ft) altitude (outer space), the booster successfully performed a powered vertical soft landing.[4][5]


A sub-scale demonstration vehicle, Goddard made its first flight on November 13, 2006.

As of 2006 the launch vehicle was to be assembled at the Blue Origin facility near Seattle, Washington. Also in 2006, Blue Origin started the process to build an aerospace testing and operations center on a portion of the Corn Ranch, a 165,000-acre (668 km2) land parcel Bezos purchased 40 km north of Van Horn, Texas.[6] Blue Origin Project Manager Rob Meyerson has said that he selected Texas as the launch site particularly because of the state's historical connections to the aerospace industry, although that industry is not located near the planned launch site, and the vehicle will not be manufactured in Texas.[7]

On October 19, 2012, Blue Origin conducted a successful Pad Escape at its West Texas launch site, firing its pusher escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital Crew Capsule from a launch vehicle simulator. The Crew Capsule traveled to an altitude of 2,307 ft (703 m) under active thrust vector control before descending safely by parachute to a soft landing 1,630 ft (500 m) downrange.[8][9]

In April 2015, Blue Origin announced that it had completed acceptance testing of the BE-3 engine that will power the New Shepard. Blue also stated that they intend to begin test flights of the New Shepard later this year, with initial flights occurring as frequently as monthly. They "expect a series of dozens of flights over the extent of the suborbital test program [taking] a couple of years to complete.[10] The same month, the FAA announced that the regulatory paperwork for the test program has already been filed and approved, and test flights were expected to begin before mid-May 2015.[11]

The first flight of the New Shepard vehicle was conducted on 29 April 2015 during which an altitude of 93.5 km (307,000 ft) was attained. While the test itself was deemed a success and the capsule was correctly recovered via parachute landing, the booster stage landing failed because hydraulic pressure was lost during the descent.[12][13]

In September 2015, a deal with NASA meant they would now launch from complex 36 at Cape Canaveral.[14] The Blue Origin orbital vehicle was also announced and has been nicknamed Very Big Brother.[15]

First vertical soft landing[edit]

A second test flight of New Shepard was carried out on 23 November 2015, reaching 100.5 km (330,000 ft) altitude with successful recovery of both capsule and booster stage.[4][5] The booster rocket successfully performed a powered vertical landing.[5] This was the first such successful rocket vertical landing on Earth after travelling higher than 3,140 m (10,300 ft) that the McDonnell Douglas DC-XA achieved in the 1990s, and first after sending something into space. Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying that Blue Origin planned to use the same architecture of New Shepard for the booster stage of their orbital vehicle.[16]

Second vertical soft landing[edit]

On 22 January 2016, Blue Origin successfully repeated the flight profile of the 23 November 2015 launch with the same New Shepard vehicle. New Shepard launched, reached a maximum altitude of 101.7 km (63.2 mi), and, after separation, both, capsule and launch vehicle returned to the ground intact. This accomplishment demonstrated re-usability of New Shepard and a turnaround time of 61 days.[17][18]


The New Shepard is a fully-reusable, vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle composed of two principal parts: a pressurized crew capsule and a booster rocket that Blue Origin calls a propulsion module.[13] The basic concept is remarkably similar to the Chrysler SERV proposal of the late 1960s. The New Shepard is controlled entirely by on-board computers, without ground control.[10]

Crew capsule[edit]

The pressurized crew capsule can carry six persons, and supports a "full-envelope" launch escape system that can separate the capsule from the booster rocket anywhere during the ascent. Interior volume of the capsule is 15 cubic meters (530 cu ft).[19]

Propulsion module[edit]

The New Shepard propulsion module is powered using a Blue Origin BE-3 bipropellant rocket engine burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen,[10] although some early development work was done by Blue Origin on engines operating with other propellants: the BE-1 engine using monopropellant hydrogen peroxide; and the BE-2 engine using high-test peroxide oxidizer and RP-1 kerosene fuel.[20][21]


The New Shepard is expected to be launched vertically from West Texas and then perform a powered flight for about 110 s and to an altitude of 40 km (130,000 ft). The craft's momentum would continue to carry it upward in unpowered flight and would decelerate until culminating at an altitude of about 100 km (330,000 ft). After reaching apogee the vehicle would perform a descent and restart its main engines a few tens of seconds before vertical landing, close to its launch site.[22] The total mission duration is planned to be 10 minutes.

The manned variant would feature a separate crew module that could separate close to peak altitude, and the propulsion module would perform a powered landing while the crew module would land under a parachute. The crew module can also separate in case of vehicle malfunction or other emergency using solid propellant separation boosters and perform a parachute landing.[citation needed]


Initial low altitude flight testing (up to 600 m) with subscale prototypes was scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2006.[7] This was later confirmed in a press release by Blue Origin.[23] It could involve up to ten flights. Incremental flight testing to 100 km altitude was planned to be carried out between 2007 and 2009 with increasingly larger and more capable prototypes. The full-scale vehicle was expected to be operational for revenue service in 2010,[dated info] though that goal has not been met and the first test flight (a success) has slipped to 2015. It could fly up to 50 times a year. Clearance from the FAA was needed before test flights began, and a separate license is needed before commercial operations begin. The company held a public meeting on 15 June 2006 in Van Horn, as part of the public comment opportunity needed to secure FAA permissions.[7] Blue Origin says that once cleared for commercial operation, they would expect to conduct a maximum rate of 52 launches per year. The RLV would carry three or more passengers per operation.[24]

Prototype test vehicle[edit]

An initial flight test of a prototype vehicle took place on November 13, 2006 at 6:30 am local time (12:30 UTC);[25] an earlier flight on the 10th being canceled due to winds. This marked the first developmental test flight undertaken by Blue Origin. The flight was by the first prototype vehicle, known as Goddard. The flight to 285 feet (87 m) in altitude was successful. Videos are available on the Blue Origin website[26] and elsewhere.

Second test vehicle[edit]

A second test vehicle[clarification needed] made two flights in 2011. The first flight was a short hop (low altitude, VTVL takeoff and landing mission) flown in approximately early June.[27]

The vehicle is known only as "PM2" as of August 2011, gleaned from information the company filed with the FAA prior to it late August high-altitude, high-velocity second test flight. Media have speculated this might mean "Propulsion Module".[28]

The second test vehicle was flown a second time[27] on an August 24, 2011 test flight, in west Texas. It failed when ground personnel lost contact and control of the vehicle. The company recovered remnants of the space craft from ground search.[29] On 2 Sep 2011, Blue Origin released the results of the cause of the test vehicle failure. As the vehicle reached Mach 1.2 and 45,000 feet (14,000 m) altitude, a "flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered [the] range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle."[27]

Involvement with NASA Commercial Crew Development Program[edit]

Additionally, Blue Origin received US$3.7 million in CCDev phase 1 to advance several development objectives of its innovative 'pusher' Launch Abort System (LAS) and composite pressure vessel[30] As of February 2011, with the end of the second ground test, Blue Origin completed all work envisioned under the phase 1 contract for the pusher escape system. They also "completed work on the other aspect of its award, risk reduction work on a composite pressure vessel" for the vehicle.[31]

Bid submitted for NASA sRLV program[edit]

As of March 2011, Blue Origin had submitted the New Shepard reusable launch vehicle for use as an unmanned rocket for NASA's suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV) solicitation under NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. Blue Origin projects 100 km (330,000 ft) altitude in flights of approximately ten minutes duration, while carrying an 11.3 kg (25 lb) research payload.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "sRLV platforms compared". NASA. 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2011-03-10. New Shepard: Type: VTVL/Unpiloted 
  2. ^ Doug Mohney (7 May 2015). "Will Jeff Bezos Speed Past Virgin Galactic to Tourist Space?". TechZone360. 
  3. ^ Jonathan Amos (30 April 2015). "Jeff Bezos conducts New Shepard flight". BBC News. 
  4. ^ a b "Blue Origin Makes Historic Rocket Landing". Blue Origin. 2015-11-24. Retrieved 24 Nov 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Amos, Jonathan (24 November 2015). "New Shepard: Bezos claims success on second spaceship flight". BBC News. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Boyle, Alan (2006-01-13). "Amazon founder unveils space center plans". MSNBC. Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  7. ^ a b c David, Leonard (2006-06-15). "Public Meeting Details Blue Origin Rocket Plans". Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  8. ^ Lindsay, Clark (2012-10-22). "Blue Origin carries out crew capsule pad escape test". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2012-10-23. (subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ a b c Foust, Jeff (13 April 2015). "Blue Origin’s suborbital plans are finally ready for flight". Retrieved 18 April 2015. We’ve recently completed acceptance testing, meaning we’ve accepted the engine for suborbital flight on our New Shepard vehicle, [the end of a] very, very long development program [of] 450 test firings of the engine and a cumulative run time of more than 500 minutes. The completion of those tests sets the stage for Blue Origin to begin test flights of the vehicle later this year at its facility in West Texas [where they] expect a series of flight tests with this vehicle ... flying in autonomous mode.... We expect a series of dozens of flights over the extent of the test program [taking] a couple of years to complete. 
  11. ^ Foust, Jeff (2015-04-21). "Blue Origin To Begin Test Flights Within Weeks". Space news. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Bezos, Jeff (2015-04-27). "First Developmental Test Flight of New Shepard". Blue Origin. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (2015-04-30). "Blue Origin’s New Shepard Vehicle Makes First Test Flight". Space News. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  14. ^ Bezos, Jeff (2015-09-15). "Coming to the space coast". Blue Origin. Retrieved 24 Nov 2015. 
  15. ^ Rhian, Jason (15 September 2015). "Blue Origin's 'Very Big Brother' Heralds Firm's Operations at SLC-36B". Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  16. ^ Foust, Jeff (24 November 2015). "Blue Origin Flies — and Lands — New Shepard Suborbital Spacecraft". Space News. Retrieved 1 December 2015. We’re going to take that same exact architecture that was demonstrated and use it on our the booster stage of our orbital vehicle 
  17. ^ Foust, Jeff (2016-01-23). "Blue Origin reflies New Shepard suborbital vehicle". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2016-01-24. 
  18. ^ Berger, Brian (2016-01-23). "Launch. Land. Repeat: Blue Origin posts video of New Shepard’s Friday flight". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2016-01-24. 
  19. ^ "Our Approach to Technology". Blue Origin. Blue Origin. Retrieved 1 May 2015. The system consists of a pressurized capsule atop a booster. The combined vehicles launch vertically, accelerating for approximately two and a half minutes, before the engine cuts off. The capsule then separates from the booster to coast quietly into space. After a few minutes of free fall, the booster performs an autonomously controlled rocket-powered vertical landing, while the capsule lands softly under parachutes, both ready to be used again. Reusability allows us to fly the system again and again. ... The New Shepard capsule’s interior is ... 530 cubic feet—offering over 10 times the room Alan Shepard had on his Mercury flight. It seats six astronauts. Three independent parachutes [on the capsule] provide redundancy, while a retro-thrust system further cushions [the] landing. ... Full-envelope escape [system] is built around a solid rocket motor that provides 70,000 lb. of thrust in a two-second burn. 
  20. ^ Blue Origin, "Our Approach to Technology". Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  21. ^ Morring, Frank Jr., "Blue Origin Developing Its Own Launch Vehicle", Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, Apr 30, 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  22. ^ [2] Archived May 15, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Blue Origin Flight Test Update". 2007-01-02. 
  24. ^ David, Leonard (2006-06-13). "Blue Origin: Rocket plans spotlighted". Retrieved 2006-06-28. 
  25. ^ [3][dead link]
  26. ^ [4] Archived March 16, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ a b c Bezos, Jeff (2011-09-02). "Successful Short Hop, Set Back, and Next Vehicle". Letter. Blue Origin. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  28. ^ "Blue Origin has a bad day (and so do some of the media)". NewSpace Journal. 2011-09-02. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  29. ^ "Bezos-Funded Spaceship Misfires". Wall Street Journal. 2011-09-02. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  30. ^ Jeff Foust. "Blue Origin proposes orbital vehicle". Retrieved 2015-04-23. 
  31. ^ "CCDev awardees one year later: where are they now?". NewSpace Journal. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2011-02-05. 

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