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Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship rises from its West Texas pad. (Blue Origin via YouTube)

Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceship today conducted a robotic rehearsal for a future touchdown on the moon — and by all appearances, it stuck the landing.

Testing most of the elements of NASA’s precision lunar landing system was the top item on the agenda for today’s mission, which represented the 13th uncrewed test flight of a New Shepard spacecraft for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ space venture.

New Shepard’s flight had initially been scheduled for Sept. 24, but the launch was scrubbed due to a potential issue with the power supply for one of the 12 commercial payloads on board. It took more than two weeks forBlue Originto resolve all the technical issues.

New Shepard’s reusable booster blasted off from Blue Origin’s suborbital spaceport in West Texas at 8:37 a.m. CT (6:37 a.m. PT), sending a capsule stuffed with scientific experiments at a maximum speed of 2,232 mph to an altitude in excess of 65 miles (346,964 feet, or 105 kilometers). That’s beyond the 100-kilometer level that marks the internationally accepted boundary of outer space.

在飞行的顶端,太空舱分离了,在降落伞的末端飘回德克萨斯沙漠。与此同时,助推器进行了超音速下降。就在着陆前,助推器在复古火箭模式下重新启动氢燃料发动机,使自己第七次自主飞到着陆台。

“看火箭永远不会变老,”发射评论员凯特琳·迪特里希在华盛顿州肯特的蓝源基地说几乎每次都是假的。”

The flight took just over 10 minutes, from liftoff to the capsule’s touchdown.

New Shepard’s rocket boosters have routinely made autonomous landings since 2015, but this time around, the booster was equipped with a Doppler lidar sensor, a terrain relative navigation system and NASA’s descent and landing computer.

美国宇航局plans to use such components for lunar landings, crewed and uncrewed, as part of aguidance system called SPLICE. The system is meant to monitor the descent of a spacecraft, identify a target landing site and execute a touchdown within an accuracy of 100 yards (meters).

During today’s flight, NASA’s system operated in parallel with Blue Origin’s guidance system. In the months ahead, NASA will analyze SPLICE’s performance and make plans with Blue Origin for a follow-up test. The guidance system may well be used on蓝源公司及其商业合作伙伴提供给美国宇航局使用的月球着陆器.

蓝源公司是根据$3 million Tipping Point grant from NASA. In a上市前访谈美国宇航局局长吉姆布里登斯汀说,亚轨道飞行试验,如今天飞行的一个发挥了“至关重要的”作用,为未来的阿耳特弥斯月球任务的准备工作。

“Today’s flight was inspiring,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement issued after the landing. “Using New Shepard to simulate landing on the moon is an exciting precursor to what the Artemis program will bring to America. Thanks to NASA for partnering with us, and congrats to the Blue Origin team on taking another step toward returning to the moon to stay.”

Bezos weighed in as well, with anInstagram post这给蓝源公司和美国宇航局的团队带来了“巨大的荣誉”。

测试着陆系统不是今天唯一要做的事情。蓝色起源已经让新谢泼德通过它的步伐五年准备飞行付费乘客的边缘空间和回来,这项任务标志着一个不那么小的一步,这些载人飞行。

2020年开始的时候,蓝色起源的高管希望d that people would start taking suborbital space trips on New Shepard by the end of the year. But the coronavirus outbreak contributed to months of delay in the development program. Today marked Blue Origin’s first test flight since last December.

Although there were no people on board, there wereplenty of science payloads. Here’s a sampling:

  • Space Lab Technologies’ autonomous plant growth system, known asMicrogravity LilyPond, is meant to blaze a trail for zero-gravity aquatic gardening.
  • Southwest Research Institute flew a小行星取样原型系统,再加上一个关于液气相互作用in zero gravity.
  • 美国宇航局’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland provided a payload that demonstrates an嵌入式冷却技术for power-dense electronics.
  • Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory tested itsenvironmental monitoring suitefor suborbital launch vehicles.
  • The University of Florida flew an成像系统它正在发展为在重力水平转换过程中拍摄生物有效载荷的高分辨率照片。
  • Mu航天公司发了一份artistic experiment这是为了演示一种将音符转换成DNA编码数据的算法。

创意总监乔尔·艾比在今天的网络直播中说,“新谢泼德”号的尾部装备了一个加强的隔热罩,该隔热罩正在接受“蓝色起源”号轨道级“新格伦”火箭的测试。新格伦的首飞定于明年。

Today Blue Origin also flew tens of thousands of postcards to space and back for its nonprofit educational venture, the对未来的俱乐部. 参与明信片项目的组织包括西雅图的飞行博物馆和华盛顿州布里安的Cedarhurst小学。

近1.2 million tomato seeds were sent into space and back for气层, a STEM outreach project run by我们来谈谈科学吧and第一,种子基金会. Blue Origin said the seeds will be distributed to more than 15,000 classrooms around the U.S. and Canada to help kids study the effects of the space environment on plant growth and food production.

上午8:45更新PT:This report was updated to provide official stats for New Shepard’s flight and add details about the educational projects on board.

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