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Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to Launch 'In-Flight Escape Test' Next Week

New Shepard's Escape Motor
Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule, with its in-flight escape motor highlighted in green. (Image credit: Blue Origin Twitter (@blueorigin))

Blue Origin, the spaceflight company run by billionaire founder Jeff Bezos, will perform a critical "in-flight escape test" of its New Shepard suborbital space vehicle next week.

The uncrewed flight, which is designed to see how New Shepard would respond to a launch emergency, will take place Tuesday (Oct. 4), Blue Origin representatives announced via Twitter today (Sept. 29). The company will webcast the test live, with coverage starting at 10:50 a.m. EDT (1450 GMT) on Tuesday.

New Shepard consists of a rocket and a space capsule designed to take people and/or scientific experiments on brief flights to suborbital space. Both components are reusable; the rocket comes back to land at the launchpad, while the capsule makes a soft landing with the aid of a parachute. [In Photos: Blue Origin's Latest Rocket Launch & Landing ]

Blue Origin has already launched the same New Shepard booster on suborbital flights four times since November 2015; each time, the rocket has aced its landing. But the Oct. 4 jaunt will likely be its last.

"Goal to test at most stressing flight condition. Likely to lose booster after escape," company representatives said today via Blue Origin's Twitter account, @blueorigin.

The "escape," in this case, is that of the New Shepard capsule, which would need to get itself out of harm's way very quickly in the event of a real-life problem during launch.

"A solid rocket motor fires for 2 seconds, quickly separating the crew capsule away from the booster," the narrator says in a Blue Origin video describing next week's test. "Once away, the capsule enters a standard descent profile, deploying drogue and main parachutes before coasting down to a landing." 

You can learn much more about the in-flight escape test in this Blue Origin blog post:

New Shepard was named after Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space when he launched on a suborbital flight in May 1961. Blue Origin announced earlier this month that it's building a big orbital rocket named New Glenn, after John Glenn, the first American to circle the Earth. 

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Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for since 2010. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.