Blue Origin Picks Payloads for Suborbital Flights

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Blue Origin, the publicity-shy spaceflight company backed by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, announced Nov. 23 it had picked three research payloads to fly aboard the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

No specifics were released on when the payloads would fly, but information posted on Blue Origin’s Web site said the first flight opportunities for experiments requiring an “accompanying research astronaut” could occur in 2012 with flight opportunities for autonomous or remotely controlled experiments to ride along on uncrewed test flights perhaps in 2011.

Flight testing of New Shepard prototype vehicles began in 2006 at Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. The company says New Shepard will consist of a pressurized crew capsule that will take off vertically and accelerate for approximately 180 seconds before shutting off its rocket engines and coasting into space.

Three selected investigations listed on Blue Origin’s Web site are:

  • Three-Dimensional Critical Wetting Experiment in Microgravity by principal investigator Stephen Collicott of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
  • Microgravity Experiment on Dust Environments in Astrophysics by principal investigator Joshua Colwell of the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.
  • Effective Interfacial Tension Induced Convection by principal investigator John Pojman of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La.

Blue Origin’s announcement follows a Nov. 19 meeting of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group. The group is chaired by Alan Stern, a former NASA associate administrator for science who currently serves as Blue Origin’s independent representative for research and education missions.