Blue Origin was forced to reschedule flight of their New Shepard launch vehicle from today to Sunday, 19th June.
Launch was unveiled recently as fourth test flight of New Shepard rocket combined with unmanned experimental capsule. Launch was planned for today and its objective was test capsule descent with two instead three drag parachutes and two instead three main parachutes. Experiment was important for verifying in emergency conditions effectiveness of rocket thrusters installed in capsule which will reduce speed before touchdown. Test will also show capability of shock absorbing structure installed under capsule to decreasing forces affecting on capsule structure and thus on crew members during landing with high speed.
Jeff Bezos unveiled on his Twitter profile that flight was postponed due the small technical issue. Ground service team spotted leakage in capsule caused by faulty o-ring in nitrogen gas pressurization system. Launch was postponed for 19th June, 2016, for 14:15 GMT. Launch site will be Blue Origin facility in Van Horn, Texas.
This flight will be also first flight which will be covered with signed on June 1, 2016, Flight Opportunity contract between Blue Origin and NASA worth $45 million. It is NASA program established in 2010 which extends possibilities of testing various technologies useful for NASA in low gravity conditions without using NASA launch vehicles. Blue Origin is sixth company participating in Flight Opportunities program, but it was not unveiled what kind of payload will be delivered to space during flight planned for 19th June 2016.
New Shepard was designed as vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL) reusable manned launch vehicle for commercial purposes, mainly for space tourism. Vehicle is controlled by onboard computers without any ground control or possibility of controlling vehicle by crew members. It is designed as combination of pressurized capsule and propulsion module. Capsule is equipped with launch escape system providing ability of separation from propulsion module in every moment of ascent and safe landing on parachutes. Crew compartment is designed for six persons with capacity of 15 cubic meters and with large windows (around 72 cm to 100 cm – record in spacecraft). Propulsion module is designed as fully reusable, powered with BE-3 engine. It is fueled with liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engine designed by Blue Origin with thrust at 490 kN. After launch propulsion module is delivering capsule to specified altitude and after separation is returning to Earth to perform soft landing with utilization of own propulsion. Capsule after separation is continuing ballistic flight and next is descending to Earth, deploying drag parachutes and main parachutes to finally land close to launch site. During previous flights New Shepard exceeded altitude of 100 km.