Blue Origin tests its pad escape system


October 25, 2012

Blue Origin's New Shepard crew capsule shoots free of the launch vehicle simulator

Blue Origin's New Shepard crew capsule shoots free of the launch vehicle simulator

Image Gallery (3 images)

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.

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.

Source: Blue Origin via PopSci

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

That is a very impressive video and I found it quite beautiful to watch. The initial acceleration looks to be very high. Hopefully not enough to crush the crew! Judging by the amount of dust kicked up, the impact looked considerable. This escape system must add considerably to the overall weight of the capsule, but is really essential. I seem to remember hearing that the original escape rocket on the Saturn launch might have been less than effective in an emergency.


That would make quite a thrill ride right rhere, just like it is, for those unable to afford Virgin Galactic. What would it cost, per passenger to ride that? The dust kicked up at landing may have been from some breaking thrusters that kick in just before touch down. The Russian Soyus does this.

John Hagen-Brenner
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