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Blue Origin is set to test an upgraded capsule on a suborbital spaceflight Thursday over West Texas and validate new environmental control systems, cabin displays and passenger communication systems before Jeff Bezo̵
The test launch is scheduled for 11:57 EST (10:57 CST; 1657 GMT) Thursday from Blue Origin’s private launch site north of Van Horn, Texas, east of El Paso, the company said.
Blue Origin said they plan to deliver a live webcast of the mission, which will be available at the top of this page.
Powered by a hydrogen-powered BE-3 engine, a New Shepard booster explodes in a step from West Texas and is expected to propel the capsule to an altitude of more than 62 miles or 100 kilometers above the internationally recognized boundary of space.
The spacecraft separates from the rocket as both vehicles drive to the peak and then begin their descent back to the ground.
The reusable New Shepard rocket will apply air brakes and re-ignite its engine for a vertical landing back at Blue Origin’s commercial spaceport, while the capsule will deploy parachutes and briefly fire its own brake rockets to dampen its touchdown on the nearby desert landscape.
Provided it follows the schedule for Blue Origin’s previous test launches, the entire mission will last approximately 10 minutes from liftoff until landing the capsule.
It will be the 14th flight of a suborbital New Shepard rocket and capsule since 2015, but the test mission on Thursday is expected to debut a new spacecraft with all the necessary equipment to transport humans.
In a statement released before launch, Blue Origin did not confirm that it will fly with a brand new capsule on Thursday, but sources said that is the plan. The new capsule is called “RSS First Step”, where RSS stands for Recyclable Spaceship.
“For this mission, the crew capsule will be equipped with upgrades to the astronaut experience as the program approaches human spaceflight,” Blue Origin said in a statement. “The upgrades include improvements to environmental features such as acoustics and temperature control inside the capsule, crew display panels and speakers with a microphone and push-to-talk button at each seat.
The mission will also test a number of astronaut communications and security alarm systems. The capsule will be equipped with six seats, including one occupied by Mannequin Skywalker, ”said the company, referring to a test dummy that was dressed in flight, Blue Origin has flown at previous launches.
Blue Origin also flies more than 50,000 postcards from students around the world, sent to shoot up into space through Blue Origin’s nonprofit Club for the Future. The postcards, some of which fly in Mannequin Skywalker’s pockets, will be returned to the students after flying in space.
Blue Origin was founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2000 and is in the final stages of testing the suborbital New Shepard booster and capsule before allowing people to launch the rocket into space.
Paying space tourists and commercial and government scientists can be passengers on future New Shepard planes, which will give customers about three to four minutes of microgravity when the capsule reaches the apogee or the highest point in its ballistic arc. Previous New Shepard test missions have flown experiments for NASA and universities.
Blue Origin leads a team of companies developing a man-made lunar landing for NASA’s Artemis program together with aviation contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Industrial teams led by Dynetics and SpaceX are also fighting for a NASA contract to build the humanized Moon Lander.
The company is also developing a huge orbital-class rocket called New Glenn, which will launch large satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.
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