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Multimedia roundup: Blue Origin completes two-parachute test flight

Posted by Jason Davis

20-06-2016 12:30 CDT

Topics: commercial spaceflight, pretty pictures

Yesterday in West Texas, Blue Origin launched its New Shepard spacecraft on its sixth suborbital test flight. The capsule normally descends using three parachutes, but on Sunday, just two were used to show the spacecraft could still land safely in the event of a parachute mishap.

It was also the fourth flight of the company's reusable booster rocket, which lands upright after blasting New Shepard to the edge of space. Both the booster and capsule performed well, judging from video commentary as well as tweets from Blue Origin and the company's founder, Jeff Bezos.

For the first time, Blue Origin provided a live webcast of the flight. Yesterday was Father's Day here in the United States, and on Twitter, Bezos tried to entice Dads to tune in with their kids to watch the flight. (It was a good idea, but personally, I passed on the offer.)

If you're looking for a full news recap, check out the usual great specialty space coverage by outlets like Spaceflight Now, SpaceNews and Also, there are nice takes by MashableThe Verge (GIFs galore!) and GeekWire

Here's a pretty picture and video roundup. You can watch Blue Origin's full, 50-minute webcast replay here, or just watch this highlight reel:

Blue Origin

Blue Origin one chute out test highlights

Blue Origin also released three high-resolution photographs:

Blue Origin reusable booster flight four, liftoff

Blue Origin

Blue Origin reusable booster flight four, liftoff
Blue Origin's reusable booster launches for the fourth time on June 19, 2016.
Blue Origin reusable booster flight four, landing

Blue Origin

Blue Origin reusable booster flight four, landing
Blue Origin's reusable booster lands for the fourth time on June 19, 2016.
Blue Origin reusable booster flight four, capsule landing

Blue Origin

Blue Origin reusable booster flight four, capsule landing
Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule floats toward the West Texas desert floor for its sixth landing on June 19, 2016. One of the capsule's three parachutes was left intentionally undeployed to demonstrate safety and redundancy requirements.

Here's another high-res shot from Twitter:

Reusable booster back in the barn

Blue Origin via Twitter

Reusable booster back in the barn
Blue Origin's reusable booster launches moves back in to its hangar following its fourth flight on June 19, 2016.

And finally, what launch is complete without Gradatim Ferociter (Latin for step by step, ferociously—the company's motto) cowboy boots? 

See other posts from June 2016


Or read more blog entries about: commercial spaceflight, pretty pictures


Karen: 06/20/2016 02:25 CDT

I just don't get it. Could someone explain to me why we're supposed to care about New Shepard?

Messy: 06/20/2016 05:11 CDT

We're not. We're supposed to care about Dreamchaser:

Matt: 06/20/2016 05:24 CDT

@Karen, whether you care about New Shepard or not is up to you. I care and I appreciate Jason's coverage of it. I am pleased to see another company trying to make reusable space craft. There are a few companies doing trying this, but it is a hard problem, so the more trying it the better off we will be. I also am happy to see Blue Origins preparing to offer space flight to the public, even if it will be very short. They are also offering the chance to fly experiments. I hope they succeed and go on to build larger reusable rockets that can get payloads into orbit and beyond.

Karen: 06/21/2016 06:07 CDT

@Matt: It's a reusable spacecraft in the same way that a RC car is a reusable car. "Space" and "orbit" are two very different beasts, and the latter is the one that actually matters. Nor is New Shepard scalable to orbit; if they want an actual orbital craft, they're going to have to start over. So again, why are we supposed to care? What's so meaningful about suborbital? Sounding rocket experiments are a tiny market and more cheaply conducted aboard, well, sounding rockets. And expensive several-minute joy rides for rich people is hardly an aspirational, advancing-the-human-race sort of endeavour. Again, I'll reiterate, any response involving any form of the answer "scale up" will be questionable, as New Shepard is not a scalable design. Honestly, I don't even understand how they're getting such terrible performance out of their systems and how they're managing to make their craft so heavy. How the heck do you make an aluminum liquid propellant rocket whose propellant load is only slightly more than double the craft's dry mass? It's like they're not even trying. To be fair, it's not like they're getting "nothing" out of this; they're certainly getting control, guidance, telemetry etc experience out of it. Maybe they'll evolve the engine into something useful - I know there's some interest in that from outside parties. But they're not even in the SpaceX Grasshopper stage - Grasshopper was at least a scalable design.

paul_wi11iams: 06/21/2016 11:46 CDT

@Karen. Here is a more distant view from an European: New Shepherd is more scalable than SpaceShip "n". New Shepherd is psychologically teasing for SpaceX so a good stimulator. New Shepherd gets rich people (whether you like them or not) to think about taking money to space. Blue Origin is also the BE-4 methane engine that, via ULA, is a competitor for the SpaceX Raptor engine. The Blue Origine mindset, like the SpaceX one, helps us to leave the Apollo paradigm by moving from once-off adventure to building autonomous bases on planets. By chasing SpaceX, BlueOrigin helps to widen a worldwide "fashion" for re-usability and building on planets. It helps others to trust their strategic thinking (BO: fourth launch of same rocket) China, Russia and maybe even Europe! This could also be the big breakaway from the (I think) somewhat confused and backward-looking ISS design which is a rather imperfect stepping-stone to the planets. Without forgetting that whatever its imperfections ISS makes a medium-term destination for Dragon and the other vehicles that must be demonstrated safe by regular flights.

paul_wi11iams: 06/21/2016 12:44 CDT

@Karen. I'm not qualified to reply on what you say about the dry-mass/propellant ratio, but think that this ratio is down-valued on small launchers because of the surface/volume ratio =^2/3. Also engine mass/power ratio may undergo a similar law. The choice of hydrogen (instead of RP-1 or methane) could lead to pressure, temperature and safety issues (think: Challenger) that require more solid fuel tanks. In my previous reply I forgot India whose agricultural+technical culture will be useful on planets. They've already launched to Mars so to be taken seriously. Forgot Japan too for space, robotics and fish farming... And certainly other cultures elsewhere!

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