The Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin commercial space company will be moving forward with a test of its rocket’s safety features while it’s 16,000 feet in the air this week.
Image Credit: Blue Origin
A test that was originally scheduled for Tuesday has been rescheduled for Wednesday due to inopportune weather, however the test may involve the loss of the company’s historic New Shepard rocket, which has been launched and re-landed four times over the last several months.
The point of the test is to make sure that the vehicle abort system is fully functional and verify that the pod attached to the rocket can get away from the rocket safely in a time of emergency. It can be activated when an anomaly is detected by the hardware on the rocket itself, or manually from mission control.
The payload is equipped with additional motors of its own that can burn for a few seconds when the emergency sequence is initiated. This allows the payload to thrust itself away from the rocket in mid-air.
The payload is also equipped with several parachutes, which will allow it to float safely to the ground after it escapes the rocket’s clutches.
The New Shepard booster rocket will be “slammed” with 70,000 pounds of off-axis force by the payload’s engine that may likely send the rocket spiraling off and crashing, however Bezos says there’s a slight chance that the New Shepard rocket could remain stabilized and still land.
Although unlikely, if it does survive, it will be worshipped in Blue Origin history books for years.
This safety procedure is required to ensure that the payload is safe for future inhabitants. In the future, when the company begins faring tourists into space, safety equipment could do more than save lives, but also protect the company from litigation should something go terribly wrong.
Here's a short clip on how the emergency sequence works: