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Forum:Commercial Space - Military Space
Topic:CCDev: Blue Origin Crew Transportation System
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Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Commercial Crew Partner Blue Origin Completes Pad Escape Test

NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin conducted a successful pad escape test Friday at the company's West Texas launch site, firing its pusher-escape motor and launching a full-scale suborbital crew capsule from a simulated propulsion module.

The test was part of Blue Origin's work supporting its funded Space Act Agreement with NASA during Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2). Through initiatives like CCDev2, NASA is fostering the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. After the capability is matured and available to the government and other customers, NASA could contract to purchase commercial services to meet its station crew transportation needs.

"The progress Blue Origin has made on its suborbital and orbital capabilities really is encouraging for the overall future of human spaceflight," CCP Manager Ed Mango said. "It was awesome to see a spacecraft NASA played a role in developing take flight."

The suborbital crew capsule traveled to an altitude of 2,307 feet (703 meters) during the flight test before descending safely by parachute to a soft landing 1,630 feet (497 meters) away.

The pusher escape system was designed and developed by Blue Origin to allow crew escape in the event of an emergency during any phase of ascent for its suborbital New Shepard system. As part of an incremental development program, the results of this test will shape the design of the escape system for the company's orbital biconic-shaped Space Vehicle. The system is expected to enable full reusability of the launch vehicle, which is different from NASA's previous launch escape systems that would pull a spacecraft away from its rocket before reaching orbit.

"The use of a pusher configuration marks a significant departure from the traditional towed-tractor escape tower concepts of Mercury and Apollo," said Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin. "Providing crew escape without the need to jettison the unused escape system gets us closer to our goal of safe and affordable human spaceflight."

All of NASA's industry partners, including Blue Origin, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Commercial Crew Partner Blue Origin Test-Fires New Rocket Engine

NASA commercial crew partner Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., announced it has tested a new, hydrogen- and oxygen-fueled engine designed to lift the company's crewed Space Vehicle on future missions out of Earth's atmosphere. Blue Origin is one of the American companies developing next generation rockets and spacecraft capable of carrying humans to low-Earth orbit.

Blue Origin conducted the test of its BE-3 rocket engine on a stand at the company's West Texas facility near Van Horn on Nov. 20. The engine fired for 2 1/2 minutes, then paused for several minutes before re-igniting for a minute in a pattern that simulated a suborbital mission.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has been working with the company on several aspects of the engine's development. The program supported testing of the BE-3 under the agency’s Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) initiative and continues to offer technical support. NASA and Blue Origin also are partnered in review and tests of the company's Space Vehicle design.

"Blue Origin has made steady progress since the start of our partnership under the first Commercial Crew Development round," said Phil McAlister, NASA's director of Commercial Spaceflight Development. "We're thrilled to see another successful BE-3 engine test fire."

During the test, the engine demonstrated a full mission duty cycle, mimicking the flight of the company’s suborbital New Shepard vehicle by thrusting at 110,000 pounds in a 145-second boost phase, shutting down to simulate coast through apogee. The engine then restarted and throttled down to 25,000 pounds thrust to simulate controlled vertical landing.

Blue Origin's Orbital Launch Vehicle will use the BE-3 engine to propel the company's Space Vehicle into orbit. Unlike other boosters that burn once and then fall away to never be used again, the Reusable Booster System is designed to send a crew into space and then make a soft landing on Earth before being refurbished for another mission. The Space Vehicle is envisioned to carry people into orbit and could potentially carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

"Working with NASA accelerated our BE-3 development by over a year in preparation for flight testing on our New Shepard suborbital system and ultimately on vehicles carrying humans to low-Earth orbit," said Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin. "The BE-3 is a versatile, low-cost hydrogen engine applicable to NASA and commercial missions."

The engine firing comes about a year after the BE-3's thrust chamber was tested at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Developing a new rocket engine is one of the most difficult aspects of launch vehicle design because of the dynamics involved with creating a powerful machine that can safely operate in a range of -423 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of liquid hydrogen, to more than 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit in the engine during a firing. The BE-3 is the first new liquid-hydrogen rocket engine built for production since the RS-68, which was developed more than a decade ago for the Delta IV rocket family.

See here for discussion of Blue Origin's New Shepard and CCDev efforts.

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