Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin crew completed a successful spaceflight on Monday, April 3rd.
Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos flew into space on his own rocket Tuesday for a thrilling 10-minute up-and-down trip, a high-tech thrill ride that lays the groundwork for commercial passenger service later this year.
“It’s the best day ever!” As soon as Bezos stepped off the plane, he said.
Bezos blasted off with his brother Mark and two history-making passengers: 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk, the oldest person to fly in space, and Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutch student who is the youngest ever to fly in space, competing head to head with fellow billionaire Richard Branson, who flew into space aboard his Virgin Galactic rocketplane on July 11.
Funk, who was originally banned from NASA’s all-male astronaut corps in the 1960s, eventually had her opportunity to prove the critics wrong, achieving a longtime ambition.
At 9:12 a.m. EDT, the crew took off from the company’s launch facility in West Texas.
The rocket sped quickly as it devoured its cargo of supercold liquid oxygen and hydrogen propellants, forcing the passengers back in their recliner-style seats with roughly three times the usual force of gravity.
Jeff Bezos, creator of Blue Origin and Amazon, his brother Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen, and Wally Funk will be among the passengers on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, which will launch on July 20, 2021. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
The spaceship was flying upwards at three times the speed of sound in less than two minutes, fading to a blur more than 30 miles above. The booster’s company-designed BE-3 main engine shut down a few seconds later at a height of approximately 45 miles, and the crew capsule was freed to fly on its own.
Bezos and his team experienced approximately three minutes of weightlessness as they coasted upward along an unpowered ballistic trajectory, free to unstrap and float about the cabin as it reached a high point of little over 62 miles.
That’s the officially acknowledged “border” between the aerodynamically detectable atmosphere and space, as defined by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, a Swiss body that keeps track of aviation records.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceplane travels somewhat lower but still far beyond the 50-mile height set by NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration as the space barrier.
In any event, Bezos and his crew would have plenty of time to perform somersaults and frolic in weightlessness while admiring magnificent vistas of Earth’s curving horizon and the darkness of space via the capsule’s six windows, which are the biggest ever constructed inside a spaceship.
“The astronauts really see a light on their panels,” said capsule designer Gary Lai. “And that secure seatbelt light essentially turns off one second after we disconnect (from the booster), and they’re free to roam throughout the cabin.”
Meanwhile, the reusable New Shepard rocket made its way down to Earth on its own, landing tail first two miles from the launch site. Before re-igniting its BE-3 engine, unfolding four hinged legs, and settling to a picture-perfect landing, the rocket depended on deployable air brakes and steering fins to maintain its orientation.
Meanwhile, onboard the crew capsule, Bezos and his colleagues buckled up as weightlessness gave way to atmospheric braking, which slammed the crew back into their seats with a force four times that of gravity.
The shift from weightlessness to re-entry deceleration, according to Lai, was not abrupt, and the crew had plenty of time to return to their seats.
“The astronauts receive a warning to return back into their seats approximately three minutes before launch,” he said in an interview before to takeoff. “And they have approximately 30 seconds at that moment.”
“All they have to do is be seated in the seat,” he said, “and then when the G forces come on, it will automatically push them back in the seat so there is plenty of time to buckle back in.”
Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule lands successfully in Van Horn, Texas, on July 20, 2021, with passengers Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen, and Wally Funk on board. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
All of this seems to have gone well, as the capsule began to descend freely back to Earth. Three huge parachutes opened and filled at a projected height of approximately 3,000 feet, slowing the New Shepard’s fall to around 16 mph.
The spacecraft then softly touched down at 9:22 a.m. EDT, with nitrogen fueled thrusters firing only six feet off the ground, slowing the capsule to 1 mph and sending up a churning cloud of dust.
Moments after landing, Jeff Bezos offers a thumbs-up from inside the crew capsule. Origin of the color blue
Within minutes after landing, Blue Origin recovery teams rushed on the spacecraft to open the hatch and assist the returning astronauts. Before going back to prepare for a press conference and interviews, all four emerged in apparent good spirits, smiling and embracing support staff.
It was the 16th successful New Shepard spacecraft test flight, the third for this rocket and capsule, and Blue Origin’s first with people on board. And it seemed like everything went off without a hitch.
On July 20, 2021, Jeff Bezos leaves Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule as it successfully parachuted down to land in Van Horn, Texas, after its maiden passenger mission. AP through Blue Origin
“Security is very paramount,” Lai said. “We set out to design, build, and operate the safest human spaceflight spacecraft ever, and we believe we have accomplished.”
Blue Origin intends to conduct two more passenger flights before the end of the year, although ticket pricing have yet to be announced. A trip on Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane is expected to cost about $250,000, although both firms are hoping for economies of scale and reduced costs in the future.
Blue Origin has two New Shepard rockets and capsules ready to launch, one for passenger service and the other for scientific research payloads.
“We’re not finished until we fly this vehicle; it’s just the beginning,” Lai said. “We’re going to increase our production. We expect dozens, and ultimately hundreds of thousands, of astronauts to travel on New Shepard. So this is only the start. Nonetheless, it is a watershed moment.”