Aerospace firm Blue Origin has already conducted wind tunnel and engine tests, in the development of its reusable orbital Space Vehicle. Last week, however, the company took a step forward in the development of its New Shepard suborbital system – at its West Texas launch site, the company conducted a successful pad escape test, in which a full-scale crew capsule was ejected from a launch vehicle simulator.
An actual pad escape would be necessary if there were an emergency upon launch, and the three-person crew (within their capsule) had to separate from the launch vehicle. SpaceX has also addressed this scenario, with tests of its SuperDraco engine-equipped crew capsule.
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Blue Origin’s capsule broke free of the launch vehicle simulator thanks to its integrated pusher escape motor, which launched it to an altitude of 2,307 feet (703 meters) under active thrust vector control. It subsequently descended by parachute, making a soft landing 1,630 feet (497 meters) downwind from the launch site.
Although the exercise was conducted with the New Shepard in mind, Blue Origin has stated that results of the test will also inform the design for the escape system of the Space Vehicle. A NASA-posted video of the test can be seen below.