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article imageBlue Origin launches successful first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0

By Karen Graham     Dec 13, 2017 in Technology
Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin recorded a new milestone today – an inaugural flight for Crew Capsule 2.0, the latest version of the vehicle it’s creating to bring astronauts into space for its first passenger flights.
The New Shephard reusable sub-orbital rocket was launched from the company’s West Texas launch site Tuesday, boosting the unpiloted crew capsule out of the dense atmosphere to an altitude of 322,032 feet (98.16 kilometers) in a flight lasting a total of 10 minutes and six seconds.
The New Shephard booster came back to Earth tail-first, re-starting its hydrogen-fueled BE-3 main engine to slow down, deploying four legs and settling to a picture-perfect touchdown on a circular landing pad. The Crew Capsule 2.0, which features the largest windows in spaceflight history, came back to Earth assisted by parachutes to make a gentle 1.0-mph touchdown near the launch site.
New Shephard with Crew Capsule 2.0 at launch site in West Texas.
New Shephard with Crew Capsule 2.0 at launch site in West Texas.
Blue Origin
Crew Capsule 2.0
Crew Capsule 2.0 is just the latest in the design of a sub-orbital spacecraft that will take aspiring astronauts to the edge of space. The capsule's windows make up a third of the capsule, each one being 47.7 inches in length and 28.6 inches wide. Each window is made of multiple layers of fracture-tough transparencies.
The interior of the capsule is large, with 530 cubic feet of space, it can carry six passengers comfortably. The Crew Capsule 2.0 also has a “full-envelope” escape system. Blue Origin drew from the lessons of the Mercury and Apollo programs in designing an escape system that is built around a solid rocket motor that provides 70,000 lbs. of thrust in a two-second burn, so the capsule can quickly move away from any hazard.
Booster rocket makes perfect  controlled landing.
Booster rocket makes perfect, controlled landing.
Blue Origin
On Tuesday's flight, the only passenger onboard was "Mannequin Skywalker," an instrument-laden test dummy designed to return flight telemetry. The flight also included 12 commercial, research and education payloads. But Blue Origin hopes to fly people onboard its aircraft by early 2019.
New Shephard reusable booster rocket
This was Blue Origin's seventh New Shepard flight overall and it’s sixth success in a row. It was the company’s first test flight since a dramatic launch Oct. 5, 2016, that simulated an in-flight abort and it's first using a new, upgraded booster and a crew capsule equipped with windows.
Crew Capsule 2.0 made a successful first flight today.
Crew Capsule 2.0 made a successful first flight today.
Blue Origin
The rocket reached a maximum ascent velocity of Mach 2.94 (2,000 mph, 3,200 km/h) and a maximum descent velocity of Mach 3.74 (2,847 mph, 4.582 km/h) on the way back to Earth. The rocket's B-3 engine is designed to power the rocket into space with 110,000 lbs. of thrust, as well as restart as the vehicle returns to Earth, slowing the booster to just 5.0 mph.
"Today's flight of New Shepard was a tremendous success," says Bob Smith, CEO, Blue Origin. "It marks the inaugural flight of our next-generation Crew Capsule as we continue step-by-step progress in our test flight program."
More about Blue Origin, crew capsule 20, New Shephard, reusable rocket, Suborbital Spacecraft
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