Featured Image: Blue Origin
Lift Off Time
|July 20, 2021 – 13:11 UTC | 08:11 CDT|
|NS-16, first crewed launch of a New Shepard vehicle|
|New Shepard 4|
Launch Site One, Corn Ranch, Texas, USA
Where did the spacecraft go?
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Where did the first stage land?
|It softly touched at Blue Origin’s landing pad at about 2.2 m/s, ~3.3 km (~2 miles) from the launch site|
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
|There are no fairings on the New Shepard vehicle|
Were these fairings new?
|There are no fairings on the New Shepard vehicle|
How was the weather?
This was the:
|– 1st crewed launch on New Shepard |
– 16th launch of a New Shepard rocket
– Launch of the oldest person to space (82 years old)
– Launch of the youngest person to space (18 years old)
– 1st launch of humans from the Texas, United States
Where to watch
Everyday Astronaut replay
How did it go?
For the first time ever, Blue Origin successfully launched humans on the flight proven New Shepard 4 rocket on their NS-16 mission. Its crew consisted of Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, 82 year old Wally Funk, and finally 18 year old Oliver Daemen. From launch to touchdown the crew’s official mission time was 10 minutes 10 seconds. The crew joyfully spent a few minutes in weightlessness and reached an altitude of 107 km (351,210 feet), similar to the previous test flights.
After the conclusion of the mission, the crew held a post flight briefing where the received their wings and gave their remarks about their first experience in space. Astronaut Wall Funk commented on going into space after to many years, “I have been waiting a long time to finally get it up there….. We had a great time. It was wonderful.” In addition, Jeff Bezos gave a necklace with a Blue Origin feather on it to his mother.
Who is on NS-16?
Founder of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, hitched a ride to space on his New Shepard 4 rocket. Bezos founded the company in 2000 which was initially focused on propulsion systems. In 2005, Bezos further focused his adolescent company to build a sub-orbital vertical launch and landing system called New Shepard. However, it was not until 10 years later when New Shepard flew for the first time.
Having also founded Amazon, Jeff Bezos was able to supply funds for Blue Origin with his own money and from selling Amazon stock. Apart from Amazon, Bezos had always been fond of space. He had the inspiration for founding Blue Origin after watching the movie October Sky in 1999. Even in high school and college Bezos was amused by building hotels in space and making space more accessible to everyone.
With the flight of NS-16, Jeff Bezos was finally able to fulfill his life long dream of feeling the unique sense of weightlessness and becoming the select few who have actually entered the vacuum of space to look back down on the beautiful Earth.
Jeff Bezos invited his brother, Mark Bezos, to join him on the once in a lifetime adventure. Mark and his brother are only separated by five years of age which allowed them to grow up together.
Mark and Jeff did not continue on similar career paths. While Jeff become a well-known entrepreneur, his brother stayed on the back end to help others. For many years he worked as the head of communications at the Robin Hood Foundation, which is a non-profit organization fighting poverty in New York.
Notably, Mark Bezos is also a volunteer firefighter in Westchester County. Mark has faced challenges and unique experiences before in this job, now he finally got to face them in space.
A similarity between many of those who pioneered in the early days of aviation and spaceflight, Wally Funk is not always a widely spoken name like Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin. Funk is most known for being the first female board member for the FAA and NTSB.
However, before she worked in the big leagues, Funk left highschool when she was only 16. After studying to acquire her pilots license from Stephens College, she finished her education with a Bachelor’s In Science in Secondary education. Funk deeply yearned to be able to study for a degree in engineering; however at the time those were not offered to women almost anywhere.
In addition to her aviation positions, Wally Funk also worked at NASA as part of the Mercury 13. This group consisted of 13 women who never met, but were trained and evaluated very similarly to the male astronauts. None of these women ever went to space. However, Wally Funk finally got her chance. She officially became the oldest person to travel to space at the age of 82.
The final participant on NS-16 is 18 year old Oliver Daemen. He graduated from high school in 2020 and will be attending the University of Utrecht in the fall. In addition, he officially became the youngest person to ever fly to space.
Oliver’s dad, Joes Daemen, was the runner up to the winning bid and most likely chose his son to fly on NS-16. Since the winner of the auction is unable to fly, Blue Origin chose the next closest winner.
The winner of the months long auction to support Blue Origin’s Club for the Future will fly on a future mission due to “scheduling conflicts”. Blue Origin has not released any information regarding the identity of the winner.
What is the crew capsule?
The New Shepard Crew Capsule has the capability to carry up to six people in a large pressurized 15 m3 (530 ft3) interior. Blue Origin’s main goal is to open up the experience of microgravity and see the curvature of the Earth to the general public. Each large window can let through 92% of visible light despite its structural ability to hold pressure making the experience that much more clear.
For safety, the capsule has a built-in solid-fueled abort motor known as the Crew Capsule Escape Solid Rocket Motor (CCE-SRM) in the “pusher” configuration. Check out the Everyday Astronaut video and article on the differences and advantages/disadvantages to puller versus pusher configured motors. This motor comes from Aerojet Rocketdyne and has already been proof tested on the final flight of NS2.
What is New Shepard?
Aptly named New Shepard, after the first American to be launched on a suborbital trajectory, Alan Shepard, this rocket will only ever perform suborbital flights. So far there have been four New Shepard rockets built: NS1, NS2, NS3, and NS4. NS1 flew for the first time on April 29, 2015 and reached an altitude of 93.5 km (58.1 mi) before failing to land because of a hydraulic pressure issue. The capsule landed successfully by parachute and was recovered.
The New Shepard booster is powered by a single BE-3PM liquid-fueled engine with the capability of producing 489 kN (110,000 lbf) of thrust. The BE-3 is fueled by liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOx) and was developed and tested by Blue Origin in the 2000s.
After the failure of NS1, Blue Origin then moved on to NS2 which completed the first successful launch and landing of a New Shepard booster on November 23, 2015 after reaching an apex of 100.5 km (62.4 miles). This marked the first time that a New Shepard rocket had carried a capsule to just above the Kármán line, descended in a controlled fashion, and landed successfully on deployable landing legs. About a month later SpaceX did one better – they landed an orbital class rocket booster for the first time.
NS2 was also the booster to perform the famous in-flight abort where the Crew Capsule 2.0 fired its single solid-propellant abort motor at an altitude of 7.1 km (4.4 miles) to simulate a failure of the booster. This test was successful and both the capsule and booster were recovered. NS2 went on to complete five more successful test flights before it was retired.
After the retirement of NS2, Blue Origin had moved on to testing their still active NS3 vehicle. So far, NS3 has completed 7 successful flights with the first flight occurring on December 12, 2017. NS3 was also the booster to fly Crew Capsule 2.0, the second iteration of the capsule. Improvements to NS3 included enhanced recovery hardware to increase reusability, as well as increased thermal protection. There are more planned flights for NS3 with the next one being sometime during 2021.
NS4 for NS-16
NS-16 was the third flight of the NS4 rocket. NS4 has some improved accessibility panels for easier cleaning and checkouts on the hardware. NS4 has already performed two flights, in which it landed successfully along with the capsule. These tests have given Blue Origin and the FAA confidence to fly humans on this booster.