Saturday, January 23, 2016

Launch. Land. Repeat.

Click the arrow to watch the launch test. Video source: Blue Origin YouTube channel.

Blue Origin has posted a video of its latest suborbital test flight, flying once again the New Shepard booster and capsule first flown on November 23.

Blue founder Jeff Bezos wrote in his blog:

The very same New Shepard booster that flew above the Karman line and then landed vertically at its launch site last November has now flown and landed again, demonstrating reuse. This time, New Shepard reached an apogee of 333,582 feet (101.7 kilometers) before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse.

Data from the November mission matched our preflight predictions closely, which made preparations for today’s re-flight relatively straightforward. The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including a noteworthy one. Rather than the vehicle translating to land at the exact center of the pad, it now initially targets the center, but then sets down at a position of convenience on the pad, prioritizing vehicle attitude ahead of precise lateral positioning. It’s like a pilot lining up a plane with the centerline of the runway. If the plane is a few feet off center as you get close, you don’t swerve at the last minute to ensure hitting the exact mid-point. You just land a few feet left or right of the centerline. Our Monte Carlo sims of New Shepard landings show this new strategy increases margins, improving the vehicle’s ability to reject disturbances created by low-altitude winds.

As I wrote on November 25, Blue's efforts compare more to the suborbital adventure tourism market than SpaceX attempts to land Falcon 9 boosters delivering payloads to orbit.

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