Update, October 4: In a tweet, Blue Origin said the flight would be delayed until Wednesday October 5 due to a "weather no-go". The live stream will begin at 10.45am EDT (3.45pm BST). Our original story is below.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 4, Blue Origin is going to perform a dramatic test of its New Shepard rocket that will likely end in its destruction, with the event live-streamed online at the company's website.
The stream will begin at 10.50am EDT (3.50pm BST), although an exact time for the test has not yet been given.
Until recently, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has performed much of its activity in secret. But this live stream is a sign of a shift from the company towards openness, perhaps in an attempt to emulate the public excitement around rival SpaceX’s events.
We’ve already seen videos of the unmanned New Shepard rocket and its capsule launching and landing, including the last successful test, which was live-streamed for the first time. This time around, though, things will be a bit different.
Ultimately, Blue Origin wants to launch people on short jaunts into space aboard the New Shepard capsule. To prove this is safe, it needs to show that the crew capsule can save its astronauts in the case of a rocket failure.
That’s what this latest test is for. The launch is going to happen as usual, with the rocket lifting off from the launch pad in West Texas. But rather than going to space, like on their previous launches, the company is going to simulate an in-flight failure to test out safety mechanisms.
The crew capsule has an escape motor, which will ignite and separate the capsule from the rocket about 45 seconds after the launch, at a height of about 5 kilometers (3 miles). If everything goes to plan, the capsule will then parachute back to the ground, demonstrating how it would save the astronauts in such a scenario. Blue Origin has performed a similar test before, but without the booster.
As for the rocket itself, well, it might not be such good news. “This test will probably destroy the booster,” Bezos said in a previous update. “The booster was never designed to survive an in-flight escape.”
There is a small chance it will survive, in which case Bezos said it would be retired and put in a museum. This will be its fifth flight, being the same booster that was used for the previous tests, including the first launch and landing of a rocket that has been to space (for clarification, SpaceX’s first rocket landing was the first orbital rocket to perform the same feat; Blue Origin’s rocket is only suborbital).
It should all be quite exciting. And with Bezos also recently revealing a new, much larger rocket that Blue Origin is developing, the company is certainly doing a good job of showing us why it can be a major player in private space travel.