Aerospace company Blue Origin is expected to hold an uncrewed test flight of its reusable New Shepard spacecraft on Thursday. New Shepherd — designed to one day transport people and payloads to space and back — last launched in a test in Dec. 2019. Thursday’s flight, known as NS-13, will carry 12 payloads and will test landing technologies NASA plans to use to get two astronauts on the moon in 2024.
Elaine Petro is an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University and a former engineer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She says the upcoming test launch marks progress towards a “sustainable space economy” – particularly through New Shepherd’s use of hydrogen and oxygen as propellants.
“The NS-13 launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle marks exciting progress on the route to sustainable human presence in space. This flight will move the New Shepard vehicle closer to readiness for human passengers and in the meantime, it is providing valuable zero-g test conditions for new space technologies and science experiments.
“One aspect that is exciting about the New Shepard design is its use of hydrogen and oxygen (LOX, LH2) propellants which are combusted to provide the heavy lift needed to reach orbit (and land the rocket safely). In our plans to go back to the moon and beyond, we will need to rely on in-situ resources and LOX and LH2 can be harvested from water stored in lunar and other surfaces across the solar system. So, the New Shepard flight happening this week certainly marks an important step and continued progress towards a more sustainable space economy.”