Blue Origin has resumed space flights after pausing for a year.
Blue Origin successfully launched their first rocket in over a year on Tuesday, bringing the U.S. company back to success after a previous uncrewed crash in 2022.
While mission NS-24 did not have any human passengers, it did carry a payload of scientific experiments. This sets the stage for Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company to once again take wealthy adventurers to the edge of space.
The New Shepard rocket launched from Launch Site One in Van Horn, Texas at 10:42 a.m.
Once detached from the booster, the capsule resembling a gumdrop reached a maximum height of 107 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. This is significantly higher than the Karman line, a globally acknowledged demarcation of the beginning of outer space set at 100 kilometers in altitude.
Shortly after, the booster achieved a vertical landing on the launchpad, with the beautiful Sierra Diablo mountains serving as a stunning backdrop. A few moments later, the capsule gently descended to the desert ground with the assistance of three large parachutes.
In total, the mission lasted for 10 minutes and 13 seconds.
Phil Joyce, the senior vice president of the company, stated that there is a growing demand for New Shepard flights and they are anticipating an increase in flight frequency in 2024.
Onboard the spacecraft, there were science experiments to showcase the functioning of hydrogen fuel cell technology in a state of microgravity. Another experiment demonstrated the movement of water and gas in a weightless setting.
Possible future uses may involve tracking the cleanliness of water for astronauts while in space.
On September 12, 2022, a Blue Origin rocket caught fire shortly after takeoff. The capsule, attached to the top of the rocket, effectively activated an emergency separation process and gently descended to the ground using parachutes.
The incident triggered a 12-month investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, which determined that the cause was a malfunction of an engine nozzle due to higher-than-anticipated temperatures during operation.
The governing body has mandated a series of steps for Blue Origin to carry out before it is able to resume flights, such as altering specific engine components. On Sunday, it was announced that the regulator has given the green light for Blue Origin to fly once more.
Blue Origin has conducted a total of six flights with crew members onboard since July 2021. These flights have included both paying customers and guests, with the first flight being taken by Bezos himself.
Despite the current restrictions on Blue Origin, competitor Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, has continued with five successful commercial flights in the past year.
The two businesses are rivals in the developing field of space tourism, conducting operations in suborbital space.
Blue Origin launches a compact rocket in a vertical manner, while Virgin Galactic utilizes a bigger carrier aircraft to reach higher altitudes before releasing a smaller, rocket-powered spacecraft that completes the trip to outer space.
Passengers experience a brief period of weightlessness and have the opportunity to observe the Earth’s curvature through expansive windows in both scenarios.
Tickets for Virgin Galactic were priced at $200,000 to $450,000, while Blue Origin does not reveal the cost of their tickets to the public.
Blue Origin has the impressive achievement of reusing almost all components of its rocket system, such as the booster, capsule, engine, landing gear, and parachutes.
The engine is powered by liquid oxygen and hydrogen, resulting in only water vapor being produced during flight, with no release of carbon emissions.
Next year, Blue Origin plans to launch their commercial heavy rocket, New Glenn.
The height of this rocket is 98 meters and it is specifically created to transport loads weighing up to 45 metric tons into low Earth orbit.