It is truly a milestone on the way of New Shepard to manned commercial missions. Today capsule landed without any problems on two parachutes instead three.
Fourth test flight of Blue Origin New Shepard VTVL launch vehicle was planned to be performed from launch facility in Van Horn in Texas. Plan of the mission covered launch, separation, reentry and landing of the rocket and reentry and landing of the capsule. Apparently it might seem that it is regular blue Origin flight plan. But this time something important was changed. Blue Origin planned to use two from three drag parachutes and two from three main parachutes. This meant that capsule will land with increased speed and during return descent it would be exposed for rapid pressure changes. Due the fact that capsule was equipped with research payload and various sensors in case if wind would be extremely high third parachute would be deployed to avoid loss of capsule. Mission previously was scheduled for Friday, June 17, 2016, but due the leakage and necessity of changing O-ring seal it was postponed for today for 14:15 GMT.
Rocket was rolled out and delivered to launch site at around 08:00 GMT. Next after passing 4 km it was put into vertical position on launch site. It is worth to remind that it is same rocket which performed previous three flight tests in 2015 and 2016. At T-30′ rocket was already in the middle of the tanking process (New Shepard uses LOX/LH2 propellant). At T-4′ rocket was switched to internal power and research payload was also turned on. At T=0 BE-3 engine started to provide its 490 kN of thrust and after six seconds rocket started to rise above launch pad. At T+45″ rocket reached altitude of 1500 m and speed of 762 km/h. After passing sound barrier, rocket reached at T+57″ point of maximal aerodynamic stress and reached speed of 1462 km/h km/h. At T+2’25” main engine cut off was performed on altitude of 60 km with speed of 3 Ma. At T+2’50” separation was performed and capsule started its ballistic flight when rocket started to reduce its speed. At T+4’05” capsule reached apogee on altitude of 101 km and passed Karman’ line. Next rocket using deployed fins (at t+5’25”) and stabilizing ring on atop and started to descent. At T+6’34” rocket deployed eight drag brakes and passed altitude of 30 km with speed of 783 km/h. At T+6’53” on altitude of 15 km engine was turned on again and speed of rocket started to be decreased. At T+7’03” landing gear was deployed and at T+7’19” rocket touched the ground. Almost at the same time crew capsule deployed two drag parachutes at T+7’31”; it reduced speed to 267 km/h. At T+8’37” two main parachutes were deployed and reduced speed to 32 km/h. At T+9’55” rocket started retro thruster and perform touchdown at T+9’56”. According to Blue Origin capsule and rocket are in good condition; capsule requires small repair of insulation, repacking parachutes, software update, preparing retro thrusters and changing shock absorbing structure beneath capsule.
Congratulations Blue Origin !