October 23, 2012
Blue Origin Launches Pad Escape Capsule, Test Is A Success
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Aerospace research and development firm Blue Origin conducted a successful pad escape test last Friday (Oct. 19) at the company´s West Texas launch facility, launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a simulated propulsion module.The test, part of NASA´s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), was also conducted under its Space Act Agreement with NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiative. Such initiatives sees NASA looking for safe and commercially viable solutions to ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
NASA said once capabilities from companies, such as Blue Origin, have matured and are available, they could be contracted out for their commercial services, meeting the needs of governments and other space-based customers.
“The progress Blue Origin has made on its suborbital and orbital capabilities really is encouraging for the overall future of human spaceflight,” CCP Manager Ed Mango said in a press release. “It was awesome to see a spacecraft NASA played a role in developing take flight.”
Blue Origin´s capsule traveled to an altitude of 2,307 feet before parachuting back down to a soft landing 1,630 feet from lift-off.
The pusher escape system was designed by Blue Origin to allow crew to escape in the event of an emergency during any phase of the ascent for its suborbital New Shepard system. The company said the results of the test will shape the design of the escape system for the company´s orbital biconic-shaped Space Vehicle. The system is expected to enable full reusability of the launch vehicle, a notable difference from NASA´s previous launch escape systems that would pull the spacecraft away from its rocket before reaching orbit.
“The use of a pusher configuration marks a significant departure from the traditional towed-tractor escape tower concepts of Mercury and Apollo,” Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin, said in the release. “Providing crew escape without the need to jettison the unused escape system gets us closer to our goal of safe and affordable human spaceflight.”
Apart from its partnership with Blue Origin, NASA is also looking toward its other commercial partners, who are currently working on fulfilling contracts with the US space agency to develop commercial spaceflight capabilities. These include SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, and are among a host of companies committed to proving their worthiness in the commercial space transport game.
NASA is also working out its own capabilities with the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide entirely new avenues for human space exploration. Orion and SLS will help NASA expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions farther into space.