Reusable rockets are all in the craze at the moment. That is why when a company announces that it may just blow one up on purpose, well, you can not help but be surprised. Blue Origin is planning an in-flight test of its launch abort system, and if all goes according to the plan, this is likely to be the last time the booster takes flight.
Blue Origin will be deploying its New Shepard booster, which has already been deployed four times, to test its newly developed launch abort system. These systems are aimed towards protecting the crew members in the event of a mishap and are deployed to separate the crew capsule from the booster in a hurry.
Speaking on the topic last month, Founder Jeff Bezos had said,
The high-acceleration portion of the escape lasts less than two seconds, but by then the capsule will be hundreds of feet away and diverging quickly. It will traverse twice through transonic velocities—the most difficult control region—during the acceleration burn and subsequent deceleration. The capsule will then coast, stabilized by reaction control thrusters, until it starts descending.
So if all goes well, the crew capsule will survive — as it is expected too. However, the booster will likely face the brunt of the event. It is expected that it may come face to face with almost 70,000 pounds of off-axis force and hot exhaust, no a pleasant prospect in any case but thousand of feet up in the air, this amount of strain is likely to tear the propulsion module to pieces.
If it survives though, Blue Origin is hoping to place it in a museum for some hard earned rest. If it doesn’t, well, you can be certain that it will at least go out with a bang.
Meanwhile, the mission will mark another critical juncture in manned passenger flights using reusable rockets. If passenger flights are to become a reality, a safety system that is able to protect the crew and passengers in case of a mishap is a must. Blue Origin is planning to test the first passenger test flights of the suborbital system by 2017, as such, Tuesday’s tests will have a critical role in defining the shape of the company’s future strategy.