Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Seattle, WA, United States (4E) – The “RSS H.G. Wells,” a New Shepard 3 (NS3) suborbital spacecraft made by spaceflight and space tourism company Blue Origin, has become the first company spacecraft to make it to outer space.
The spacecraft designed to carry a crew of six persons reached an altitude of 106.7 kilometers on April 29, meaning it crossed the Karman Line that represents the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. The Karman Line lies at an altitude of 100 km above the Earth’s sea level.
“That’s the altitude we’ve been targeting for operations,” said Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. “One step closer.”
A test dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” went along for the flight to collect flight data. This latest mission was the eighth uncrewed test flight for the New Shepard program. It was also the second go-around for RSS H.G. Wells, which is named in honor of the legendary English science-fiction writer whose masterpieces include The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds. RSS H.G. Wells flew for first time in December 2017.
The current series of uncrewed flight tests will pave the way for Blue Origin’s human astronauts to venture into space aboard an NS3 spacecraft by the end of this year or early 2019. Space tourists and scientists will eventually be taken into space by other NS3 spacecraft.
Blue Origin expects its New Glenn orbital program to venture into space as early as 2020. The New Glenn’s mainstay BE-4 rocket engine is being produced at the company’s headquarters in Kent, Washington, and undergoing tests at the West Texas facility.
Once the engine tests are completed, Blue Origin plans to ramp up engine production at a new facility in Alabama, and integrate the engines with New Glenn rockets at its Florida factory.
Bezos has said Blue Origin is “the most important work that I’m doing.”
New Shepard is a reusable vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL) suborbital crewed rocket being developed as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism.
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