30 June-2014, The Hindu: The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C23) rocket carrying five satellites, including…
AP, Cape Canaveral: Rocket company Blue Origin pulled off a double success Wednesday, coming a step closer to
launching people into space.
The aerospace startup led by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos tested the escape system of its space capsule Wednesday in remote west Texas. Forty-five seconds into the flight, the capsule popped off like a champagne cork, propelled by an escape motor mounted underneath.
Not only did the empty capsule land safely under parachutes four minutes after liftoff, the rocket managed to fly back and land upright. This was the first inflight test of the emergency escape system, designed to save lives if something goes wrong with the rocket during liftoff, and the first test of its kind in the U.S. since the 1960s.
Blue Origin’s launch commentators called it an “epic flight” from beginning to end. Bezos had warned in advance that the booster rocket probably would end up crashing back to Earth, after being jolted by the 70,000 pounds of force exerted by the escape system. Instead, the booster made what looked to be a fine vertical touchdown seven minutes after liftoff, just a couple miles from its launch pad.
“Wow. There it is. There you go, New Shepard. Look at her,” launch commentator Ariane Cornell exclaimed once the booster landed. “What an extraordinary test and a tremendous final flight for both craft.”
The rocket and capsule system are intended for suborbital flight and are called New Shepard after the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Bezos hopes to launch the first test flight with humans as early as next year, followed by tourists and other paying customers. The capsule could hold up to six people.
Blue Origin is aiming for reusability to lower launch costs. After the capsule darted away at 400 mph, the rocket kept going up, reaching more than 240,000 feet high, before descending to the desert floor.