New Shepard’s 25th Launch Carries Six to the Edge of Space and Back

Sending tourists to space is still relatively novel in the grand scheme of humanity’s journey to the stars. Dennis Tito took the first-ever paid trip in 2001, but since then, plenty of others have journeyed to the heavens. Increasingly, they’ve done so via systems developed by private companies. On Sunday, May 19th, Blue Origin, originally founded by Jeff Bezos to pursue his dreams of humanity’s future in space, successfully launched its seventh crewed mission – this time containing six first-time astronauts, including one that waited a long time for his day in space.

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Starlink on Mars? NASA Is Paying SpaceX to Look Into the Idea

Starlink satellites in Earth orbit, under consideration for Mars
An artist's conception shows Starlink satellites in orbit. Credit: SpaceX

NASA has given the go-ahead for SpaceX to work out a plan to adapt its Starlink broadband internet satellites for use in a Martian communication network.

The idea is one of a dozen proposals that have won NASA funding for concept studies that could end up supporting the space agency’s strategy for bringing samples from Mars back to Earth for lab analysis. The proposals were submitted by nine companies — also including Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, Astrobotic, Firefly Aerospace, Impulse Space, Albedo Space and Redwire Space.

Awardees will be paid $200,000 to $300,000 for their reports, which are due in August. NASA says the studies could lead to future requests for proposals, but it’s not yet making any commitment to follow up.

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Finally! Blue Origin’s New Glenn Goes Vertical on the Launch Pad

Blue Origin New Glenn Rocket

If you think about space travel and the means of escaping the confines of the Earth then most people, currently, are likely to think about the new Artemis project and the Space Launch System. That’s not the only new development though, Blue Origin have been working on their New Glenn rocket and finally we have got a glimpse of their new offering. The rocket was finally rolled onto the launch pad at Cape Canaveral for testing to commence and we may even see a launch later this year.

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard Completes 24th Flight; New Glenn Hopefully on the Horizon

New Shepard’s booster lands on the pad during NS-24 on December 19, 2023. Credit: Blue Origin.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket successfully launched and landed today at the company’s Launch Site One in West Texas, with an uncrewed science and goodwill payload onboard. This was the 24th New Shepard flight and 13th payload mission today from Launch Site One in West Texas.

This marked the first flight since September of 2022 when the uncrewed NS-23’s booster suffered an in-flight anomaly; however, the escape system jettisoned the capsule, which was able to land safely. With the success of NS-24, Blue Origin hopes to soon restart its commercial passenger flights.

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Blue Origin Reveals its Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle: Blue Ring

Artist rendering of Blue Origin’s spacecraft platform, Blue Ring, which is seen featuring a multitude of payloads and accessories. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Jeff Bezos-founded aerospace company, Blue Origin, recently announced its new and upcoming Swiss army knife-style spacecraft platform, Blue Ring, which comes after very little public discussion by Blue Origin regarding this project. For example, a January 2023 story broke when Blue Origin briefly announced a job posting for “Blue Ring Senior Program Manager” on its “Careers” page, but the job was pulled less than 24 hours later. Overall, Blue Origin has been quite mum about Blue Ring.

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Artemis V is Going to the Moon With Blue Origin

NASA has announced a second lunar lander provider for its Artemis program, choosing Blue Origin’s National Team to deliver astronauts to the Moon’s south pole as early as 2029. Blue Origin’s lander will be part of the Artemis V mission. They join SpaceX, whose Starship is already slated to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface for Artemis III and IV.

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Blue Origin is Building Solar Cells out of (Simulated) Lunar Regolith

Power infrastructure will be critical for any long-term space colony, and one of the most critical pieces of that power infrastructure, at least in the inner solar system, is solar cells. So in-situ research experts were thrilled when Blue Origin, ostensibly a rocket company, recently announced that they had made functional solar cells entirely out of nothing other than lunar regolith simulant. 

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Just Four Robots Could Deploy a Huge Radio Telescope on the Far Side of the Moon

FARSIDE Concept: Rendering that shows the initial stages of tethered-rover egress from a parent lander. Credit: XP4D, NASA JPL, and Blue Origin

For decades, astronomers have advocated building radio telescopes on the far side of the Moon. This “radio-quiet” zone always faces away from Earth and would provide the perfect location to study a variety of astronomical phenomena that can’t be observed in low radio frequencies from our planet, or even by Earth-orbiting space telescopes. But the costs and logistics of such a project have pushed most of these concepts to the realm of futuristic dreams.

But now a group of astronomers and engineers have worked out a concept for a radio telescope placed on the lunar far side that could be as large as 100 square kilometers across, and it could be deployed from a robotic lunar lander and four two-wheeled rovers. 

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A New Shepard Exploded. Fortunately, There Wasn’t Anyone on Board

On September 12, Blue Origin New Shepard mission, NS-23, failed just over one minute into an uncrewed flight, forcing the escape system to eject its New Shepard upper stage capsule, which landed safely near the launch site. Several science experiments were being carried onboard with the original flight plan calling for the capsule to reach an altitude of a little more than 60 miles, which is internationally acknowledged as the edge of space. While the flight was uncrewed and the capsule made a successful soft landing after ejecting, the scenario could have been far more ill-favored if the flight had been crewed with tourists.

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NASA Releases Details on how Starship Will be Part of its Return to the Moon

The path back to the moon is long and fraught with danger, both in the real, physical sense and also in the contractual, legal sense.  NASA, the agency sponsoring the largest government-backed lunar program, Artemis, has already been feeling the pain on the contractual end.  Legal battles have delayed the development of a critical component of the Artemis program – the Human Landing System (HLS).  But now, the ball has started rolling again, and a NASA manager recently reported the progress and future vision of this vital part of the mission to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers at a conference.

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