Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin will launch its New Shepard rocket on August 25 containing 11 NASA payloads – despite suing the space agency after losing a £2.1bn lunar contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX
- The uncrewed mission will see a number of NASA payloads sent up 60 miles
- The payload deal with NASA was arranged before a lawsuit over the lunar lander
- Blue Origin has taken NASA to court over the agency only awarding SpaceX the contract to build a lander to put astronauts on the moon for the Artemis mission
- New Shepard will launch from West Texas at 14:34 BST (09:35 EDT) on August 25
Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket will be sent to the edge of space with 11 NASA payloads on board, despite the firm suing the US space agency.
The mission will be uncrewed, unlike the last flight that saw Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos head to the edge of space with his brother Mark, flight pioneer Wally Funk and teenager Oliver Daemen, who was the first official customer of the firm.
It is scheduled to lift off from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site at 14:34 BST (09:35 EDT) On Wednesday, August 25 and will be broadcast live by the space firm.
The payload deal with NASA was stuck before Blue Origin launched its latest lawsuit against NASA over not being awarded the lunar lander contract.
SpaceX won the $2.9 billion (£2.1 billion) project to put the first woman and next man on the moon, but Blue Origin lodged a complaint which was rejected and has now opted to take legal action in a bid to have NASA award the contract to both firms.
The mission will be uncrewed, unlike the last flight that saw Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos head to the edge of space with his brother Mark, flight pioneer Wally Funk and teenager Oliver Daemen, who was the first official customer of the firm
EXPERIMENTS ON THE NS-17 FLIGHT
Carthage College: The Modal Propellant Gauging Experiment
The Modal Propellant Gauging experiment demonstrates a new approach to measuring propellant levels in spacecraft propellant tanks in the microgravity of space.
NASA Kennedy Space Center: The Orbital Syngas / Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR)
The Orbital Syngas / Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) aims to help transform common spaceflight waste products into useful resources, such as water and propellants.
The system includes a steam generation stage and an oxygen supply stage that help process trash samples into useful gases.
Southwest Research Institute: Liquid Acquisition Device (LAD-3)
The Liquid Acquisition Device (LAD-3) demonstrates how liquid/vapour interfaces behave in microgravity.
Applications include cryogenic propellant storage and management for in-space propulsion systems.
University of Florida: Biological Imaging in Support of Suborbital Science
IBy further calibrating and enhancing the way data is collected, the FLEX fluorescence imaging system experiment enables increasingly precise and dynamic biological research on suborbital missions.
When it launches, the New Shepard flight, known as NS-17, will be the 17th overall for Blue Origin and will have a total of 18 payloads and thousands of postcards on board.
The postcards were submitted by children to the Blue Origin nonprofit ‘Club for the Future’ which was launched in 2019 to inspire the next generation to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The suborbital flight will also include NASA’s Deorbit, Descent and Landing Sensor Demonstration experiment strapped to the exterior of the capsule.
This is a suite of technologies that have been designed to help spacecraft land more accurately on the moon and other planetary bodies such as Mars.
‘Knowledge gained from the first flight on October 13, 2020 informed a series of critical improvements to further the capabilities of the Navigation Doppler Lidar and the Descent Landing Computer,’ said Blue Origin in a report on the mission.
‘The technologies could allow future missions—both crewed and robotic—to target landing sites that weren’t possible during the Apollo missions, such as regions with varied terrain near craters.’
It isn’t clear whether this equipment will be used on the human lander system being developed by SpaceX for NASA’s Artemis moon landing missions.
Bezos, who founded Amazon and Blue Origin, said there were ‘fundamental issues’ with the deal NASA struck with SpaceX to build their lunar lander.
Blue Origin was among three firms vying for a contract to land NASA’s first astronauts on the moon since 1972.
The space agency originally indicated it would pick two of the three firms, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics, but a funding shortfall in the NASA budget meant they went with SpaceX alone.
In a court filing, Blue Origin said it still believes two providers are needed to build the landing system to ensure redundancies in the process.
Bezos’ firm has accused NASA of ‘unlawful and improper evaluation’ of its proposals during the bidding process. When he lost the deal, Bezos offered to pay £1.4bn of Nasa’s costs to be reconsidered for the contract – but was rebuffed.
After NASA awarded the sole contract to SpaceX in April, Blue Origin and Alabama-based Dynetics filed a 50-page protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog.
In response, Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, trolled his fellow multibillionaire Bezos, tweeting he ‘can’t get it up (to orbit),’ with a joke about the shape of New Shepard.
In July, the GAO rejected Blue Origin and Dynetics’ protest, finding ‘NASA did not violate procurement law or regulation when it decided to make only one award,’ striking down Blue Origin’s main argument.
Bezos’s firm has accused NASA of ‘unlawful and improper evaluation’ of its proposals during the bidding process. When he lost the deal, Bezos offered to pay £1.4bn of Nasa’s costs to be reconsidered for the contract – but was rebuffed
This prompted the new lawsuit, but the suborbital payload deal was in place before this or the lawsuit began.
The New Shepard flight will also feature an art installation in the form of Amoako Boafo’s ‘Suborbital Tryptych,’ consisting of three portraits painted on the top of the crew capsule on the parachute covers.
Future New Shepard flights will either carry a full payload, like this one, crew, or a combination of both crew and payload.
The main competition for Blue Origin in the suborbital flight sector is Virgin Galactic, who also have a contract with NASA to send payloads to the edge of space.
To date, New Shepard has flown more than 100 payloads to space across 11 flights.
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
The SLS rocket will from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.
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