Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is attempting to break an exciting new record in space travel by launching its New Shepard rocket an incredible seventh time, more than any other reusable rocket. The launch, which was originally scheduled for April but was pushed back to September had to again be rescheduled due to a power supply issue. If all goes well it will launch today at 9.35am ET from the company's Van Horn launch facility in West Texas.
This is the 13th launch of the New Shepard missions. NS-13 has delivered 12 commercial payloads to space but it will also carry out some exciting science on its return to Earth. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and Blue Origin are collaborating on the so-called Tipping Point partnership, and on its way back from space, NS-13 tested precision technologies that will be crucial to a future lunar landing.
The experiment and its different components will be used to test a descent and landing computer that will identify the landing zone, match it to the map, and measure both distance to the ground and speed. Despite its repeated success, this is not an easy task to navigate on Earth. On the Moon, however, there won’t be a launchpad to return to.
The rocket is expected to land back to Earth 11 minutes after launch.
"The experiment will verify how these technologies (sensors, computers, and algorithms) work together to determine a spacecraft’s location and speed as it approaches the Moon, enabling a vehicle to land autonomously on the lunar surface within 100 meters of a designated point," said Blue Origin in a statement. "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."
The data collected will be used in the Artemis program, NASA's ambitious plan to have the first woman and next man go to the Moon over the next five years.