Jeff Bezos: Next spaceflight will include flaw

Image: New Shepard with parachutes
Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule descends on the end of its parachute system during an uncrewed test flight in April 2015. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos predicts there’ll be a problem with a parachute the next time his Blue Origin venture flies its uncrewed New Shepard spaceship. He’ll make sure of it.

Flying with a bad parachute is part of Blue Origin’s plan to test the suborbital craft under stressful conditions, in preparation for flying passengers to the edge of outer space in as little as two years.

In today’s email update, Bezos said he and the rest of the team were “finishing our mission planning for another flight of New Shepard, which will be our fourth flight with this vehicle.”

The New Shepard propulsion module and crew capsule went through successful flights to space and vertical landings in November, January and April at Blue Origin’s West Texas launch facility. During last month’s test outing, the propulsion module didn’t relight its hydrogen-powered BE-3 rocket engine until just seconds before what would have been a crash landing. New Shepard made a soft touchdown nevertheless.

“On this next mission, we’ll execute additional maneuvers on both the crew capsule and the booster to increase our vehicle characterization and modeling accuracy,” Bezos wrote.

“We also plan to stress the crew capsule by landing with an intentionally failed parachute, demonstrating our ability to safely handle that failure scenario,” he continued. “It promises to be an exciting demonstration.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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