Blue Origin rehearses for passengers during latest capsule test flight
Blue Origin came a step closer to crewed flights today as ground personnel stood in for astronauts during the 15th New Shepard suborbital space mission. Before the NS-15 mission lifted off, the "astronauts" carried out preflight capsule procedures and then re-entered after the flight to rehearse post-flight procedures.
Including the pad escape test in 2012, New Shepard has carried out 16 successful capsule flights and landings as Blue Origin ramps up for the day when the crew capsule will carry paying passengers on straight up, straight down flights into space. So far, all of the test flights had been without passengers or crew, operating under autonomous control, but before people can ride atop New Shepard, how to operate the crew capsule will have to be nailed down and simulated over and over.
For today's rehearsal, "astronauts" entered the capsule during the countdown and carried out preflight tests, made communications tests with the Capsule Communicator (Capcom) in mission control, and practiced the steps for entering and exiting the capsule as well as preparing it for flight.
Now empty except for 25,000 postcards and the flight test dummy Mannequin Skywalker, NS-15 lifted off for a mission that lasted 10 minutes and 10 seconds, reaching a maximum ascent velocity of 2,234 mph (3,596 km/h). After separation, the crew capsule continued to ascend to a maximum altitude of 347,574 ft (105 km) above ground level, or 351,221 ft (107 km) above mean sea level. Meanwhile, the New Shepard booster reached an altitude of 347,193 ft (105 km) above ground level or 350,840 ft (106 km) above mean sea level.
The booster and the capsule then descended separately, with the booster making a powered landing while the capsule came down by parachute to land on the desert floor in west Texas. The stand-in astronauts then re-entered the capsule and went through the post-flight procedures, hatch opening, and exiting the capsule.
The video below recaps NS-15.
Source: Blue Origin