First test flight of Blue Origin's New Shepard space vehicle!

On April 29, 2015, Blue Origin conducted first develpment test flight of its New Shepard space vehicle from company's West Texas Launch Site. According to company's press-release, the vehicle, ascending to an altitude of almost 94 km, has reached maximum speed of Mach 3.

New Shepard is powered by liquid oxygen - liquid hydrogen BE-3 rocket engine that have 50 ton thrust and capable of throttling between 50-ton and 9-ton thrust, a key capability for vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) vehicles. According to Blue Origin, "guidance, navigation and control systems was nominal throughout all of ascent. The in-space separation of the crew capsule from the propulsion module was perfect."

Any astronauts on-board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return. Blue Origin press-release

New Shepard is a suborbital vehicle capable of carrying up to 3 astronauts and various scientific payloads. The booster stage takes off and lands vertically, and vehicle's crew capsule lands by means of parachutes. The capsule can be flown autonomously, and Blue Origin is going to fly the vehicle dozens of times before putting test pilots aboard.

New Shepard crew capsule separates from the propulsion module. Credit: Blue Origin
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Since Blue Origin aims to make its space system reusable, they couldn't name the first test flight as flawless. Unfortunately, recovery of the propulsion module failed because of pressure lost in its hydraulic system on descent.

Meanwhile, the company reports it have already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. Therefore the next test flights, expected to be conducted soon, may be ended with a successful recovery of a 'first stage'. Assembly of propulsion modules serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway.

New Shepard crew capsule descends. Credit: Blue Origin
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Less than a month ago Blue Origin announced completion of acceptance testing of liquid oxygen - liquid hydrogen BE-3 engine for New Shepard suborbital flight. Rob Meyerson, President of Blue Origin, told then that the company was planning to begin flight tests of its reusable New Shepard vehicle soon. As we see, he was very much right:

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