Blue Origin reveals first commercial payloads
When Blue Origin's New Shepard made its seventh test flight on December 12, it not only carried the latest version of the company's Crew Capsule 2.0, but also its first dozen commercial payloads under full US FAA license. The payloads, which ranged from artworks to medical experiments, were lofted into space at an altitude of 100 km (62 mi) during the 11 minute flight where they were subjected to three minutes of free fall.
On December 12 at 10:59 CST, the reusable New Shepard booster lifted off from the Blue Origin test site in West Texas. During the flight it reached a maximum ascent velocity of Mach 2.94 (2,000 mph, 3,200 km/h) and a maximum descent velocity of Mach 3.74 (2,847 mph, 4.582 km/h) on the way back to Earth.
Though unmanned, the prototype Crew Capsule 2.0 had a "passenger" in the form of "Mannequin Skywalker," an instrument-laden test dummy designed to return flight telemetry. But Blue Origin is also trying to promote the launch system as a platform for suborbital research that can be launched multiple times at low cost for repeat experiments.
To that end, Mission 7 included 12 experimental payloads from a variety of customers. These included:
JANUS Research Platform: Johns Hopkins University-Applied Physics Laboratory's JANUS integration and monitoring platform is intended to study suborbital flight conditions both inside and outside of the capsule.
Cell Research Experiment in Microgravity (CRExIM): This experiment was aimed at studying how weightlessness affects the cellular process of T-cells that develop into stem cells in bone marrow in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the immune system.
Zero-Gravity Glow Experiment (ZGGE): From Purdue University & Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette, Indiana and Arete STEM, the ZGGE is based on a primary school classroom question about whether fireflies can light up in space. The experiment worked by combining the bio-luminescent chemicals in zero gravity while recording the results with a miniature video camera.
DCS Montessori Middle School: This was a two-part payload created by primary and middle school students that included an Arduino Nano microcontroller with a sensor package to monitor the capsule's environment, along with an art project.
Expression of Genes in Tumor Growth: Another weightlessness experiment, it looks at the expression of genes expression of genes that affect tumor growth. The payload injected RNAlater into flasks containing osteosarcoma cells, which will be analyzed using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine how gene expression changed.
Evolved Medical Microgravity Suction Device: This surgical experiment from Orbital Medicine with Purdue University and funded by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program used a simulated chest cavity to test a device for treating hemothorax in zero gravity. It's designed to draw blood under weightless conditions while sucking air to re-inflate a collapsed lung.
Source: Blue Origin