Blue Origin preparing to land New Shepard with a bum parachute next time

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WASHINGTON — Blue Origin plans to find out if New Shepard can land with a failed parachute when it launches the suborbital spacecraft on its fourth roundtrip flight.

Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin’s founder, said May 26 the Kent, Washington-based company is finishing up mission planning for New Shepard’s fourth flight since the reusuable spacecraft touched down in Texas after reaching an altitude of 100.5 kilometers.

“On this upcoming mission we also plan to stress the crew capsule by landing with an intentionally failed parachute, demonstrating our ability to safely handle that failure scenario,” Bezos said in an email update.  “It promises to be an exciting demonstration.”

Blue Origin's commissioned Preburner Test Facility in West Texas. Credit: Blue Origin
Blue Origin’s commissioned Preburner Test Facility in West Texas. Credit: Blue Origin

No date was given for the mission. As of May 26, Blue Origin had not filed with the Federal Aviation Administration for restricting  airspace around its West Texas test site.

Bezos also said that Blue Origin has commissioned the first of two new test cells it began building last October to support risk reduction testing of BE-4, the methane-fueled engine United Launch Alliance intends to use to power the main stage of its proposed Vulcan rocket.

“This test cell is pressure fed and supports the development of the preburner start and ignition sequence timing that will be used on the upcoming full scale powerpack test campaign,” Bezos said.

“[O]ne of the many benefits of a privately funded engine development is that we can make and implement decisions quickly. We made the decision to build these two new test cells as a team in a 10 minute discussion.  Less than three weeks later we were pouring concrete and now we have an operating pressure fed test cell 7 months later.

“Private funding and rapid decision making are two of the reasons why the BE-4 is the fastest path to eliminate U.S. dependence on the Russian-made RD-180,” Bezos said.