Jeff Bezos’ super-secretive commercial space program has opened up a bit, releasing a brief video showing low-altitude testing of its New Shepard suborbital space vehicle.
Until now, no one’s seen much of anything out of Blue Origin, one of four firms NASA selected for the commercial crew development program researching future manned space vehicles. The brief video released Thursday shows New Shepard launching vertically, then transitioning to a vertical landing a short distance away. The test occurred at Blue Origin’s west Texas facility on May 6.
On a subsequent flight in August the vehicle was lost after the crew lost communication during the test according to a statement from Bezos, “a flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle.”
The New Shepard — the name is a reference to Alan Shepard, the first American in space — system will use the vertical launch vehicle to propel a crew capsule for about 2.5 minutes. After shutting down the boost stage, the reusable launch vehicle will return to earth and make a vertical landing. The crew capsule will continue into space on a ballistic suborbital path before parachuting back to earth. SpaceX, founded by Bezos’ fellow aerospace entrepreneur Elon Musk, is developing a reusable launch vehicle as well.
Blue Origin, launched by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, also is working on an orbital space system. The company is developing both an orbital crew capsule and a reusable launch vehicle. The first stage of the booster rocket for the orbital system will take off and return much like the New Shepard.
NASA’s commercial crew development program is funding four companies to develop technology that can replace the space shuttle and carry crew and cargo to the International Space Station and other orbital missions. SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Boeing also received funding.
All of the companies plan to develop commercial space programs — which could include space tourism — in addition to supporting NASA missions.
Video: Blue Origin