Blue Origin returns crew flights to New Shepard with NS-25 mission

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Blue Origin succesfully returned to crewed flight with its New Shepard vehicle. The company performed the launch of the seventh human flight of the suborbital vehicle with the designated mission name “NS-25.” The launch window opened at 8:30 AM CDT (13:30 UTC) however, after some additional time needed for checkouts, final liftoff happened  one hour and six minutes after the opening of the window, at 9:36 AM CDT.

The flight was a success, and the only note during the flight was the fail of deployment of one of the three parachutes of the capsule. This is in the design margin of the capsule, and did not result in problems.

 

The crew

The six-person crew included Mason Angel, Sylvain Chiron, Kenneth L. Hess, Carol Schaller, Gopi Thotakura, and former Air Force Captain and previous astronaut candidate Ed Dwight. The six raised the number of people flown on New Shepard from 31 to 37.

In addition, each astronaut carried a postcard to space on behalf of the Club for the Future, a Blue Origin-organized foundation. 

The crew of NS-25. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Mason Angel

Mason Angel is the founder of Industrious Ventures, which provides venture capital funding for startup and early-stage innovation companies — with a special focus on companies that want to change industrial processes. He is also involved in a charity run by his family, which partners with nonprofits to provide STEM education for children and young adults.

Sylvain Chiron

Sylvain Chiron is the founder of Brasserie Mont Blanc, one of the largest craft breweries in France and Europe. Equipped with a pilot’s license since the age of 16, Sylvain is no stranger to altitude. In the past, he also spent several summers in Florida taking flying lessons and observing Space Shuttle launches. Sylvain enlisted for mandatory service in the French military, where he worked as a ski instructor for the French Air Force and NATO. He possesses an MBA from Temple University and studied business during his time in Tokyo.

Ed Dwight

Edward Joseph Dwight Jr. was born on Sept. 9, 1933.

Ed Dwight already had a career close to space in the past. In 1961, he was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to enter training at the Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS) to join the NASA Astronaut Corps. He also spent time as a test pilot for the Air Force. During this period, Dwight gained national attention and was featured on the covers of several major news magazines.

While he initially completed the training, he was not selected to be part of the NASA Astronaut Corps and did not become an astronaut. In a statement, he blamed racial politics at that time inside NASA for forcing him out of the program.

After this time, Dwight worked as an engineer for IBM before opening a barbecue restaurant in Denver. Later, he moved into sculpting and creating art, making sculptures of several key figures in Black history.

Ken Hess

Ken Hess is a software engineer in the family history industry. He has worked on software that helps to produce family tree observation tools. This product was acquired by Ancestry.com in 2003. From the profit, Ken has sparked several nonprofit organizations to provide STEM education for students, with a focus on hands-on and personalized experiences.

Carol Schaller

Carol Schaller is a retired certified public accountant (CPA) who is suffering from an eye illness that will leave her blind. Since the diagnosis in 2017, she has traveled to 25 different countries and has visited Mount Everest, the deep forests of Uganda, the South Pole, and more.

Gopi Thotakura

Gopi Thotakura is a pilot and the co-founder of Preserve Life Corp, a global corporation focused on holistic wellness and applied health. He has a passion for all kinds of aviation, including hot air balloons and international medical jet piloting.

Returning to crewed flight

This was the first crewed flight of New Shepard since August 2022, when the rocket carried Coby Cotton, Mário Ferreira, Vanessa O’Brien, Clint Kelly III, Sara Sabry, and Steven Young. After that mission, during an uncrewed scientific flight just a month later in September, the NS3.9 tail — or booster — with the RSS H.G. Wells capsule suffered an anomaly as the BE-3 main engine failed around a minute after liftoff.

The moment of the mishap. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The capsule, RSS H.G. Wells, successfully performed an ignition of the in-flight escape system, while the NS3 tail was destroyed. Since then, New Shepard was grounded until December 2023 when the NS-24 mission successfully returned the vehicle to flight. The tail for that mission was the same as for this one, NS4. This was the tenth flight of the tail. The capsule is the same as on the last crewed mission: RSS First Step.

The mishap on the NS-23 mission was caused by a thermo-structural failure of the engine nozzle, which created a misalignment of thrust and triggered the escape system.

The history of the vehicle

The tail for this mission, NS4, was first flown on Jan. 14, 2021. It is the fourth tail created for New Shepard and will fly for the tenth time. It was used on the first crewed flight of New Shepard, which featured Jeff and Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen.

On the same flight as the tail, RSS First Step also debuted. This will be its ninth flight, and it is the primary crew capsule used by the company.

Capsule

The New Shepard crew capsule is designed to carry up to six people to the edge of space. Its main purpose is to provide a view and environment for the crew while also hosting the launch escape system in the center of the rocket. The interior volume of the capsule is 15 cubic meters, and it features seats and large windows for the crew to experience space.

The New Shepard capsule after NS-24. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The abort motor is a Crew Capsule Escape Solid Rocket Motor (CCE-SRM) provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Rocket

The tail — or booster — of the rocket is powered by a single BE-3 engine, which runs on liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The single engine produces 490 kN of thrust and will run for 141 seconds during the ascent of the capsule. After the burn, the capsule will detach from the tail and continue to ascend to space. The tail will then perform a landing on the designated landing zone to be reused on a future flight.

(Feature Image: New Shepard on the launch pad ahead of a previous mission. Credit: Blue Origin)



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