New Shepard to Launch Sixth Suborbital Crewed Flight


Blue Origin is scheduled to launch six space tourists to space onboard New Shepard for the NS-22 mission.

The suborbital mission is scheduled to launch on August 4 at 13:30 UTC (08:30 am CDT) from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One located near the town of Van Horn, Texas. The crew will consist of Coby Cotton, Mário Ferreira, Vanessa O’Brien, Clint Kelly, Sara Sabry, and Steve Young.

Sara Sabry will become the first Egyptian astronaut, and Mário Ferreira will become the first Portuguese astronaut on NS-22. Colby Cotton, the co-founder of the Dude Perfect YouTube channel, was selected for this mission by an online vote.

The area around Launch Site One is also known as Corn Ranch, located near Blue Origin’s test site for their BE-4 engine, which will power both United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket.

In addition to this mission being the twenty-second flight for both Blue Origin and the launch vehicle, it is also the third mission for Blue Origin this year.

For the NS-22 mission, Blue Origin will use the RSS First Step capsule along with the NS4 first stage booster. The booster of the launch vehicle is also called the Propulsion Module.

Both RSS (Reusable Space Ship) First Step and the booster (NS4) first flew into space during the NS-14 mission in early 2021. RSS First Step is the same spacecraft that flew on Blue Origin’s first crewed flight, NS-16, which launched on July 20, 2021.

The launch marks a 61-day turnaround for the launch vehicle between NS-21 and NS-22.

Prior to launch, the crew will be driven to Launch Site One in Rivian trucks. After arrival, they will climb the launch tower and be helped into the RSS First Step spacecraft.

At T-0, the single BE-3 engine on the main booster of New Shepard will ignite.

The BE-3 runs on Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Hydrogen (LH2). The engine operates in the combustion tap-off cycle. Another version of the engine, known as the BE-3U, will fly on the second stage of Blue Origin’s future New Glenn rocket.

The NS-22 mission patch. Credit: Blue Origin.

The BE-3 will subsequently spool up, and the launch vehicle will lift off from Launch Site One at around T+7 seconds.

Around 57 seconds after launch, New Shepard will go through the region of Maximum Dynamic Pressure, also known as MAX-Q. During this time, the BE-3 engine will throttle down. At this point, the launch vehicle will be at an altitude of around 21,400 feet.

The capsule is fitted with an abort system powered by a single solid rocket motor known as the Crew Capsule Escape Solid Rocket Motor (CCE SRM) built by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

At around 2 minutes and 20 seconds after launch, the single BE-3 engine will shut down–a milestone known as Main Engine Cut Off (MECO). New Shepard will be situated at around an altitude of 182,700 feet, and it will continue to ascend.

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The capsule and the New Shepard Propulsion Module will then separate around 20 seconds later. At around the same time, the space tourists on board will begin to experience the zero-gravity (Zero-G) environment. At this point, the crew will be around 262,400 feet in altitude.

The capsule will then cross the Kármán line, which is situated at 330,000 feet, 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. The line was named after the Hungarian-American engineer, Theodore von Kármán, and is generally used to divide aeronautics and astronautics.

Once the spacecraft passes above 100 km, the crew will meet most of the definitions of becoming astronauts.

RSS First Step, along with the crew inside, will then reach their apogee–the maximum altitude during flight–around four minutes into the flight. The apogee should be around 351,100 feet in altitude. The capsule and the Propulsion Module will then begin their descent back to earth.

Around four minutes and 50 seconds into flight, the crew of six space tourists will be given a one-minute warning to get back in their respective seats for the rest of the descent. Around a minute later, the crew should be strapped back into their seats prior to the end of the Zero-G portion of the flight.

Both the Capsule and the Propulsion Module will then reenter the atmosphere. Around five minutes and 40 seconds into the flight, aerodynamic fins on the top of the Propulsion module will deploy in order to guide the booster in the dense portion of the atmosphere.

Around T+6 minutes and 40 seconds into the flight, the Drag Brakes on the top of the Propulsion Module will also deploy as the vehicle passes through around 14,500 feet in altitude.

RSS First Step touches down in West Texas after the NS-20 mission. Credit: Blue Origin.

Soon after, sonic booms will be heard through the landing site in South Texas, marking the arrival of the booster.

The single BE-3 engine will ignite once again to slow the vehicle down, and the landing legs will subsequently deploy. The vehicle will propulsively land at the North Landing Pad at around T+7 minutes and 20 seconds.

Around a minute later, the drogue chute on the Capsule will deploy, which will slow the vehicle down. This will be followed by the deployment of the three main parachutes. At this point, the vehicle will be around 3,000 feet in altitude.

The capsule will then fire retro rockets (similar to the Russian Soyuz) and subsequently touchdown in West Texas around 10 minutes after launch. Soon after, the crew will be extracted from RSS First Step.

(Featured Image: New Shepard launches for the NS-20 mission. Credit: Blue Origin).

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