New Shepard capsule being recovered after its June 19 test flight. Credit: Blue Origin Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule passed a key test showing that the suborbital spaceship could land safely with one failed parachute, company founder Jeff Bezos said on Wednesday.
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During the June 19 test flight from Blue's West Texas launch site, one of the spacecraft's three parachutes was programmed to remain closed. As a result, the capsule descended at a speed of 23 mph before firing its upward-facing retrorocket to slow down for a 3 mph touchdown. With all three parachutes deployed, the capsule descends at about 16 mph, Bezos wrote in an email.
A crushable bumper made of aluminum honeycomb which is attached to the bottom of the capsule absorbs the final energy of landing, Bezos added.
"Even with one chute out, the crushable (sections) barely crushed," Bezos said.
The bumper starts off 5.5 inches high and can be compressed down to less an inch, breaking the impact of landing. During the last flight, the crushable ring still measured more than 5 inches tall along nearly the entire circumference, Bezos said.
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Blue's New Shepard capsules are designed to fly six passengers to an altitude of about 62 miles above the planet, high enough to see the curvature of Earth set against the black sky of space and to experience a few minutes of microgravity.
Blue hopes to begin test flights as early as next year with its own pilots and engineers and begin flying paying passengers and researcher in 2018.
The capsule is designed to safely land even with two parachutes out.
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