Jeff Bezos’s space company nailed the fourth flawless landing of its New Shepard reusable rocket in Texas on Sunday, live-streaming the entirety of the mission for the very first time.
There was an added twist this time around, however, as the team set out to test a parachute-failure scenario for the unmanned crew capsule.
With the New Shepard rocket safely back on terra firma, the live-stream switched to the descending capsule. Instead of deploying three parachutes in the final stage, engineers had ensured one would fail. The aim was to see how the capsule would sail back to Earth with one of its parachutes out of action, and what kind of damage it might sustain if a slightly harder-than-usual landing occurred, although as usual the deployment of its reverse thrusters a split second before touchdown would also help to reduce the force of impact.
In the event, the capsule appeared untroubled despite one of its three parachutes failing to deploy. Its rate of descent was steady, and the vehicle at no point started to spin or show signs of being out of control.
As it hit the deck, a lot of dust kicked up, though one of the commentary team immediately described the landing as “picture-perfect,” adding that the touchdown was “exactly what we wanted.” “That was magic,” said another. Push the video to the 45-minute walk to see the capsule come down.
Next, engineers will examine the structural integrity of the capsule to see if it sustained any damage, though it seems at this early stage that the team is happy with its crash-landing test.
With the rocket down in one piece and the capsule surviving its safety test, Bezos and his team are one step closer to launching their first manned mission using the reusable technology.
Test crew could climb aboard as early as next year, with Blue Origin’s first space tourists following soon after, possibly in 2018.
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