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Blue Origin Lands Rocket During Launch Escape Test ( 89

SpaceX isn't the only private company interested in reusable rockets. Blue Origin, an American privately-funded aerospace manufacturer established by founder Jeff Bezos, surprised everyone, including itself, by successfully landing its New Shepard rocket in today's in-flight launch escape test. Gizmodo reports: Moments ago, Blue Origin conducted an in flight test of its launch escape system, separating a crew capsule from its New Shepard booster at an altitude of 16,000 feet. This test was critical to ensure that the rocket will be safe for human passengers, whom Blue Origin hopes to start flying into sub-orbital space as early as next year. Not only did the crew capsule make a clean separation, deploy its parachutes, and land softly in a small cloud of dust back on Earth, but the booster -- which everybody expected to go splat -- continued on its merry way into suborbital space, after which it succeeded in landing smoothly back on Earth for a fifth time. Although Blue Origin has tested its launch escape system on the launchpad before, this is the first time such a system has been tested, by anyone, in flight since the 1960s. It was almost too perfect. You can watch the test here.
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Blue Origin Lands Rocket During Launch Escape Test

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  • ...seems to show one of its many upsides. This may spur SpaceX to do at least as well, or better. Forget about Boeing et al.. These are small, agile (in the dictionary sense, not in the software engineering sense) companies that can move, react and even pivot in a way Boeing et al. could not even begin to dream of. Great job, Blue Origin! Now it's SpaceX's move.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SJ ( 13711 )

      Given that Blue Origin are still yet to actually reach space, i'd say it's still their move...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Blue Origin reached space multiple times. What they didn't reach yet is an orbital trajectory for their payload.

        • Blue Origin reached space multiple times. What they didn't reach yet is an orbital trajectory for their payload

          which is the hard part.

          • Re:Competition.... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @09:16AM (#53023775) Journal

            Blue Origin reached space multiple times. What they didn't reach yet is an orbital trajectory for their payload

            which is the hard part.

            I'm not so sure about that. Only two rocket systems land their boosters: SpaceX and Blue Origin. On the other hand, there is a multitude of rocket systems that can put payloads in orbit. Considering that once you have the booster slowed down to terminal velocity, it doesn't matter how fast it was originally going; the landing process is going to be the same. So maybe Blue Origin is focussing on the really hard part (the landing) and leaving the easier part (scaling up to orbital speeds) for later.

            • If you want to count research rockets, DC-X and Rotary Rocket, Bell Lunar Landing Research Simulator, and a few additional small research rockets.
              • I'll give you the DC-X, but the Rotary Rocket never got more than 75 feet off the ground, and the Bell Lunar Landing Research Simulator was a training craft for landing on the moon. It had no capacity or intention to launch anything.
          • No, it's not the hard part. That's just guidance and a bigger rocket. Keeping the rockets from exploding during development is the hard part. Also doing everything cheaply and efficiently is the most difficult part.

            • No, this is wrong. The reason rocket science is hard is because getting to orbit is hard. Going suborbital requires much less velocity, which means much less energy, which means less fuel, and you have tons more margin to work with. You can use cheaper, more reliable materials, you can afford to over-engineer structures and systems for safety. A suborbital rocket can also ignore many technical challenges entirely - there's no staging, for instance, there's no need for thermal protection for re-entry, there'

          • by lgw ( 121541 )

            The thing about rocket science? Every part is the hard part.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Not the padding on the acceleration couches. Not unless you want a nasty bump.

    • Well SpaceX has done the Dragon 2 pad abort test successfully and has the in-flight abort test scheduled for mid-2017. And has landed several first stages, so I guess they're about the same distance along in the development. Unlike Boeing.

    • Re:Competition.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @03:52AM (#53022943) Homepage Journal

      They are not a competition for SpaceX since SpaceX does not do suborbital flights.

      Blue Origin's actual competition is Virgin Galactic, which is also trying to get paying passengers on 15-minute suborbital flights.

      The difference between a suborbital and an orbital flight is like the difference between a Schwinn bicycle and a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

      • Funny thing that USA didn't point out this difference when Alan Shepard had his flight.

        But yes, they are not a competition for SpaceX since SpaceX does not do manned flights.

        • by dargaud ( 518470 )
          Actually most books about space mention that John Glenn was the first American in Space, skipping Sheppard (and his successor whom I cannot recall) entirely.
        • Re:Competition.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @06:33AM (#53023275)

          You don't have to be in orbit to be in space. That was never part of the definition. The standard definition is passing the Karman line - which is between 90 and 100km above earth (depending on where you launch from and the air pressures - but generally by convention assumed to be 100km or above). That's being in space. The next definition is leaving the atmosphere - again the boundary is not perfectly clearly defined but generally taken as being above 150km.

          Those are "in space" the difference between orbital and suborbital is how long you can *stay* in space. Suborbital comes right back - but it's a *lot* cheaper to do (you need a lot less horizontal velocity). It has it's uses too - it's a very fast way to get very long distances. ICBMs are frequently designed for suborbital trajectories for example.

          But orbit is another beast altogether - that's not just going to space but staying there for an extended period, it takes a lot more fuel - which means a much heavier rocket, meaning more powerful boosters and more complicated stages. That's what SpaceX is doing. They are working on the harder of the two. B.O. is working on the easier one - both are making great strides in their games, but they are not playing the same sport. They are merely similar sports - it's like asking who was better Babe Ruth or Peter Pollock. Both are absolute legends in games that involve hitting a hard ball thrown at you away with a stick -but it's not the same game, it isn't scored the same and you can't compare them directly.

      • They are not a competition for SpaceX since SpaceX does not do suborbital flights.

        I think if you search on "blue origin ula", you'll find that the United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin are working on a new orbital engine, the BE-4. They are in competition now as the ULA was so far behind SpaceX that they needed to bring in Blue Origin. It's just that SpaceX is still at least three years ahead of everybody else, although Blue Origin seems to be front loading a lot of their man rating early and are possibly ahead in that regard.

    • And if you believe that United Launch Alliance (Lockheed. Martin and Boeing) are looking forward to farm and honest competition - well, right. Sure, that is certainly the hallmark of the military industrial complex.

      Big money likes to win and can afford to buy the privilege. SpaceX and Blue Origin had better hurry and hope UAL doesn't decided to swat the annoying startups.

      Our country runs on money - we are a country dedicated to making the uber rich richer.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Big money likes to win and can afford to buy the privilege. SpaceX and Blue Origin had better hurry and hope UAL doesn't decided to swat the annoying startups.

        The big money actually works the other way. Boeing has a market cap of $83B, but $9B in cash and $11B in debt. LM is of similar size, but has mostly debt.

        On the other side, Bezos has a personal net worth of over $45B, and Musk of over $13B. That's a lot more weight to throw around, if they want to.

        Bezos could technically buy a controlling interest in either BA or LM with his personal fortune.

        The threat is that BA and LM are much better at feeding money into the "militarized regulatory complex", and might

    • Boeing is doing quite well, thankyouverymuch. The XB-37 is a nice bit of tech and YoYoDyne could ramp up all sorts of other ideas if they wanted.

      What Boeing is doing is milking the cow as much as is possible. You want a complicated, expensive spacecraft that can be sourced from sub assemblies built all over the congressional map? Boeing can do that for you.

      They just don't have any sort of 'mission' to do anything else besides make money for themselves and their shareholders.

      Horses for courses.

  • ...or does it look like Jeff Bezos is compensating for something?

  • parachute (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday October 06, 2016 @03:59AM (#53022963) Journal
    The way the parachutes opened was really quite beautiful, too
    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      But they take a long time to open... Do they have time to work if you escape from the launch pad, near the ground ?
      • Just looked up "abort mode IA" in the Saturn V Flight Manual (I am pretty proud to possess a paper copy of that one, it has a prominent place in my library). Time between drogue opening and parachute opening was 12 to 16 seconds, dependent upon altitude on abort. The manual is not very explicit on aborting on the pad or close to the pad, but something can be gleaned from the conditions under which the mission could be aborted; all of these presuppose ignition of all five engines of Stage I to have succeeded

      • That procedure is under "open the window and just jump" when your that close lol
  • ... like it was added in to the video afterwards. OR it was ALL faked. (Sorry, couldn't resist)
    • It sounded like they lifted some over-zealous marketing wonks out of the conference room and stuck them on the air. The video was cool, but I just about threw up every time they spoke.

      • I agree. I watched most of it on mute. The poor engineer they had commenting sounded like they pulled him off his job to do the commentary. He obviously wanted to be back at his job.
  • his cozy relationship with the CIA, and increasingly Amazon as well. But I have to admit: he has hired some smart folks for his hobby.
  • Just, wow.

  • I had to call my wife to watch this one! Wow, she said, a huge penis is blasting off! Yeah, I told her, watch as the crew capsule will separate... Crew capsule? Oh! yes, there goes the head!
    Was the design on purpose, to troll radar operators with a penis cross-section?
    It being funny of course didn't take much away from the important parts of the mission, nice landing for both booster and capsule. Good to see these guys progressing.

    • That's interesting. My wife had the pretty much the same comment. "Why are you looking at a picture of a giant dildo with a feather on it?"

  • Damn, that was really smooth. They didn't even expect the rocket to return; this is a double-win for Blue Origins. The commentator said this was both vehicles "final flight"...that rocket looks pretty beat up on the outside lol. Hopefully, after all the post-flight analysis is done, Jeff donates this to a museum. I'd love to go get a up-close of this impressive vehicle even if it's slightly phallic lol.
    • Dunno if I would call a complete rotation of the capsule as 'smooth'. Lots of fun perhaps. Vertigo inducing perhaps. But not smooth.

      Looks like they need to tweak the thruster controls a bit. But it's nice that the conical capsule shape is aerodynamically stable (mostly).

      • I was more meaning "smooth" as in nothing blew up/crashed lol. For real" astronauts, it would have been bumpy but OK. For tourist astronauts...yeah, everyone would need a shower after that hahaha
  • Is that the internet comments would immediately turn this into a pissing contest between SpaceX and Blue Origin. How about cheering on -any- company trying to make new strides in space tourism, space services and space exploration? Fuck off wankers.
  • Just note that Blue Origin is a sub-orbital rocket. SpaceX has put stuff into orbit and recovered the first stage, which is much more complicated.

  • That looked like a Right Stuff quality ride. I hope they had enough sensors in the capsule to simulate it. It might be a case of being able to successfully land a tub of goo.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These guys (Musk and Bezos) are different men with different business models, different technical approaches, different goals, etc and they are BOTH doing great stuff

    Yeah, Musk has sent stuff into LEO to and from the ISS and also out to GEO. This is all excellent work and very promising BUT it's also been massively subsidized by NASA who saved SpaceX from bankruptcy by signing a contract to launch payloads on Falcons before Musk had ever proven he could fulfill that contract, and then signing up for a bunc

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.