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Blue Origin and New Shephard RLV

FutureSpaceTourist

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Blue Origin is Jeff Bezos' space company currently developing a suborbital VTOL RLV called New Shephard. This vehicle is inspired by the DC-X, with some engineers from that programme now working for Blue Origin.

The company is notoriously secretive about its plans and progress but information is emerging. Some details of vehicle capabilities are on the Blue Origin website at http://www.blueorigin.com/nsresearch.html, including the flight trajectories below. Further info is in the Blue Origin response to the recent NASA suborbital research RFI (see attached).

A couple of items I find particularly interesting: total time for a suborbital flight is 10 mins and max g load transient on loading is 10g for a nominal flight! Not what I'd call a soft landing ...

Update: NASA website has a spreadsheet at http://suborbitalex.arc.nasa.gov/files/CRuSR-SuborbitalPlatformCapabilitiesMatrix.xls that summarises all the responses to the suboribtal research RFI
 

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RanulfC

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From what I've been seeing and reading the New Shephard is more based on earlier "capsule" ballistic RLV work than the DC-X "concic" design. More like a larger version of the Apollo capsule than the Lifting Body. I must agree about the secretive nature of the work too, I suspect that Blue Origin could give pointers to the CIA, DARPA and a lot of other folks with supposedly "secret" projects. Getting any info is like pulling teeth, on a T-REx!

The G-rating of a flight is dependent on the trajectory and in most cases what I've been calling the "Class-1 Suborbital" straight-up-straight-down or "X-Prize" trajectory is always going to have a higher peak G load. Without some way to increase the drag at higher altitude such as fold-out panels or enough forward velocity to create some type of "lifting" trajectory you end up with a higher heating pulse and higher G-loads as you shed most of your vertical velocity deeper in the atmosphere. Virgin Galactic was pegging max-G for SS-2 at around 9Gs and they are looking at hitting around 400Kft also. If you read the RFI and website the "10G" though is short term during landing probably for less than a second, the expected "peak" reentry is supposed to be no more than 6Gs, with three (3) minutes of microgravity. (One reason for the higher G-load for SS-2 is they are supposed to go higher for longer microgravity which means higher entry velocity and higher G-load)

It's going to be interesting to see how the actual flight program turns out.

Randy
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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9Gs sounds a bit high for VG; I'd heard 6 (maybe 7 for 400K flights, ie higher than usual passenger flights). Their NASA RFI response includes:

[quote author=Virgin Galactic NASA RFI response]
Passengers and payload will experience up to 4 G on launch and a peak of 6 G on re‐entry. Launch g’s reach a maximum of 4 g’s in both gx and gz vectors during boost, though gz vectors are of short duration during the pull up maneuver only. [...]
[/quote]

I thought SS2's feathering gave precisely the drag needed to shed velocity at higher altitudes to reduce both g-load and heat further? I know Scaled say that on SS1 feathering is so effective that a higher temperature is reached on ascent than descent!

Back to Blue Origin, the website says that the crew capsule will separate from the propulsion module and both will re-enter and land separately. I agree that sounds much more like a traditional capsule design. So of course the reports about DC-X influence may be wrong, but it would be interesting if that wasn't their original intention and the approach was modified for some reason. (Or maybe the DC-X influence is for their SSTO vehicle that comes after New Shephard ;D).
 

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Hmm, rather strange... I am sure I have in my archives someplace both Branson and Rutan mentioning 9Gs and both stating they felt that was acceptable. The "feathering" feature isn't actually a 'high-drag' configuration but more a self-stabilizing feature. They would get MORE drag if they DIDN'T feather the wing but instead left it at 90degrees to the airstream.

As to the "origin" of the New Shepard design I wasn't actually meaning the recovery method per se. The DC-X design though it took-off and landed verticaly was actually a lifting body design. The "follow-on" DC-Y/Clipper would have reentered nose first using body lift to achieve the cross-range the military required and then had to do a "pitch-up" manuever to align for landing.
"Ballistic" recovery vehicles don't have as much "lift" as a winged or lifting body vehicle does so they don't have the cross-range ability of a lifting entry vehicle. (Not that "lift" is going to do much good for anyone with a Class-1 suborbital since it doesn't have a horizontal component able to utilize with lift. In the Class-1 case it's all about the "drag" :) )

The New Shepard (and any future SSTO :) ) would have more in common with the Apollo Command Module or SERV than the DC-X.

I'm also a little confused as the website says that the Crew Module and Propulsion Module will seperate, then reenter and land seperatly but this isn't stated in the RFI which sounds like they will land still attached. I have to say the idea of seperating the crew and booster makes the whole operations concept a lot more difficult and time consuming.

Randy
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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I've always seen feathering described as high-drag, but that doesn't necessarily mean maximum drag. As you say it keeps things stable so the point may simply be that it maintains a high-drag configuration (as opposed to say more nose first?).

I'm confused too by New Shepard splitting into two before re-entry. There must be costs from the added complexity, not clear to me what the benefit is. I guess we'll only know more once details of the vehicle emerge.
 

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Could it be that they are deliberately optimizing the first stage for recovery purposes based on the assumption that non-capsule payloads (which in the end could be the bigger money maker) are non-returning upper stage packages , and thus should be designing for a cleaner post-separation interstage area for the first stage?

Of course there would be the implication that some of the capsule technology can be carried forward to a recoverable upper stage, in the same vein as the Kistler K-1 upper stage.

The ballistic orientation, with the flight testing of the first stage, means they are also accumulating experience towards post upper stage launch mission ballistic flyback of the first stage from the downrange landing site.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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As Blue Origin were awarded some CCDev funding earlier this year, there are a few details about what they're doing at: http://www.recovery.gov/Transparency/RecipientReportedData/pages/RecipientProjectSummary508.aspx?AwardIDSUR=90717&qtr=2010Q2

Retiring Key Technology Risks for Orbital Space Flight:

Two enabling technologies for the orbital Space Vehicle are the pusher escape system and composite pressure vessel cabin. Blue Origin proposes to use NASA co-funding to retire select development risks related to these technologies.

Pusher Escape System - The orbital Space Vehicle is reusable and incorporates full-envelope crew escape capability in the event of an anomaly on the launch vehicle. Historically, crew escape has been performed using an escape tower which must be jettisoned on every mission, including nominal missions not requiring escape. This jettison event introduces a flight safety risk on every mission because the tower jettison system becomes safety critical. Operations costs are also increased because the tower is fully consumed each mission. Rather than a tower over the capsule, Blue Origin plans an escape engine mounted at the rear of the capsule in a 'pusher' configuration. The pusher escape system will remain with the vehicle, avoiding the flight-safety risk of the jettison event. The pusher escape engine will not be consumed in a nominal mission, and so can be reused from mission to mission, lowering costs. The pusher escape system differs substantially from the traditional escape system concepts. Blue Origin proposes to use NASA co-funding to conduct TVC ground testing to measure thrust-vector gimbal angle and other measurements during typical escape mission duty cycles. Following completion of the CCDev activity, Blue Origin plans suborbital flight test at private expense.

Composite Pressure Vessel - The second risk mitigation activity for the orbital Space Vehicle is to conduct assembly and testing of a composite pressure vessel cabin, which will use composite panels bonded together. No such structure has ever flown in a similar space application. Blue Origin will evaluate the strength and leak-rate of the structure, as well as manufacturing challenge in the joint assembly. To retire these risks by characterizing the structural margin in the integrated design, Blue Origin proposes to use NASA co-funding to: Manufacture a structural test article, which will serve as a subscale demonstrator for the orbital Space Vehicle, Pressurize the test article to evaluate the strength of the structural design, and Repair the test article and conduct a drop test to test cabin structural integrity.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Thanks to a HobbySpace reader for pointing out that in February this year Blue Origin filed a world-wide patent application entitled: Bidirectional Control Surfaces for Use with High Speed Vehicles, and Associated Systems and Methods.

[quote author=Application Abstract]
Vehicles with bidirectional Control surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. In a particular embodiment, a rocket can include a plurality of bidirectional control surfaces positioned toward an aft portion of the rocket. In this embodiment, the bidirectional control surfaces can be operable to control the orientation and/or flight path of the rocket during both ascent, in a nose-first orientation, and descent, in a tail-first orientation for, e.g., a tail-down landing.
[/quote]

The application includes pictures of a 'representative vehicle'. It also cites two US patent applications from 2009 - 61/187,268 and 61/155,115.

As noted on HobbySpace not clear how novel this patent application is as, for example, both Armadillo and Masten have to solve the same issues with their VTVL rockets.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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The NASA Commercial Cargo & Crew Program Manager, Alan Lindenmoyer, gave a presentation at the recent FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference that include a bit of Blue Origin info, including the attached image of the composite crew pressure vessel.

The presentation is currently available at http://www.aiaa.org/pdf/industry/presentations/Alan_Lindenmoyer.pdf.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Clark Lindsey has posted information about Blue Origin's plans taken from their CCDev2 agreement with NASA:

[quote author=http://procurement.ksc.nasa.gov/documents/NNK11MS02S_SAA_BlueOrigin_04-18-2011.pdf]
Blue Origin is developing a Crew Transportation System, comprised of a Space Vehicle (SV) launched first on an Atlas V launch vehicle and then on Blue Origin's own Reusable Booster System (RBS). NASA funding through CCDev 2 and the future Commercial Crew program will accelerate availability of the Blue Origin CTS.

The biconic Space Vehicle will be capable of carrying seven astronauts and will transfer NASA crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS), serve as an ISS emergency escape vehicle for up to 210 days, and perform a land landing to minimize the costs of recovery and reuse. It will also conduct separate commercial missions for science research, private adventure, and travel to other LEO destinations.

Blue Origin's Space Vehicle is designed to ride on multiple boosters. The Atlas V was chosen for initial capability because it has a proven launch track record, has the required performance capability, can be adopted for human spaceflight operations, and is operated from facilities close to the Kennedy Space Center.

Blue Origin is simultaneously developing a Reusable Booster System to dramatically lower the cost of space access. In the coming decade, use of expendable booster stages will be a substantial portion of NASA's total cost of space access. Each one-time use of current expendable booster technology represents a prime opportunity for cost reduction. Blue Origin's RBS employs deep-throttling, restartable engines to perform vertical take-off, vertical landing (VTVL) maneuvers for booster recovery and reuse. CCDev 2 funding will shorten the development time of these engines, accelerating the availability of Blue Origin's Reusable Booster System.
[/quote]
 

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quellish

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Keep your eyes peeled for something new very, very soon ;)
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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quellish said:
Keep your eyes peeled for something new very, very soon ;)
Oooh, you tease ;D Did you tip off Clark Lindsey about Blue Origin's flight yesterday?

The various NOTAM details are:

[quote author=http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_1_0986.html]
ONLY RELIEF AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS UNDER DIRECTION OF BLUE ORIGIN LLC ARE AUTHORIZED IN THE AIRSPACE AT AND BELOW
[/quote]

[quote author=http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/notam_actual_1_0432.html]
FDC 1/0432 ZAB NM.. TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS VAN HORN TX. EFFECTIVE 1105051200 UTC UNTIL 1105051900 UTC. PURSUANT TO 14 CFR SECTION 91.143 TEMPORARY FLIGHT RESTRICTIONS ARE IN EFFECT DUE TO ROCKET LAUNCH ACTIVITY WITHIN A 17 NAUTICAL MILE RADIUS OF 312706N/1044546W OR THE SALT FLAT /SFL/ VORTAC 125 DEGREE RADIAL AT 24.3 NAUTICAL MILES, SFC TO 10,000 MSL. BLUE ORIGIN LLC, 805-598-9309 IS IN CHARGE OF THE OPERATION. ABQ ARTCC /ZAB/ 505-856-4500 IS THE FAA COORDINATION FACILITY.
[/quote]

[quote author=http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_1_0432.html]
Reason for NOTAM : DUE TO ROCKET LAUNCH ACTIVITY WITHIN A 17 NAUTICAL MILE RADIUS OF 312706N

Altitude: From the surface up to and including 10000 feet MSL
[/quote]

Given their secretive nature, I wonder if Blue Origin will actually say anything about this or wait until they're much further into their flight test program?
 

quellish

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They did indeed fly in the beginning of May from their facility near Salt Flat. I am told the vehicle was a "New Sheppard" reusable suborbital first stage, the configuration roughly matching the representative vehicle shown in "Bidirectional Control Surfaces for Use with High Speed Vehicles":
http://www.google.com/patents?id=5lDwAAAAEBAJ
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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quellish

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quellish said:
They did indeed fly in the beginning of May from their facility near Salt Flat. I am told the vehicle was a "New Sheppard" reusable suborbital first stage, the configuration roughly matching the representative vehicle shown in "Bidirectional Control Surfaces for Use with High Speed Vehicles":
http://www.google.com/patents?id=5lDwAAAAEBAJ
And here it is:

http://news.discovery.com/space/bad-day-for-jeff-bezos-rocket-company-110902.html
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Here's Blue Origin's statement on the recent tests and last week's failure:

[quote author=http://www.blueorigin.com/letter.htm]
Successful Short Hop, Setback, and Next Vehicle

Three months ago, we successfully flew our second test vehicle in a short hop mission, and then last week we lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet. A flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle. Not the outcome any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard, and the Blue Origin team is doing an outstanding job. We're already working on our next development vehicle.
Here's the vehicle just after the short hop lift off:



Just before landing:



Just after the short hop landing:



Here it is at mach 1.2 and 45,000 feet right before the thrust termination system activated:



Gradatim Ferociter!
Jeff Bezos
September 2, 2011

P.S. In case you're curious and wondering "where is the crew capsule," the development vehicle doesn't have a crew capsule -- just a close-out fairing instead. We're working on the sub-orbital crew capsule separately, as well as an orbital crew vehicle to support NASA's Commercial Crew program.
[/quote]
 

Grey Havoc

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Wall Street Journal article on the setback: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904716604576546712416626614.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLETopStories
 

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Bunch of new videos from Blue Origin.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EIkzHYYm1w






https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YJhymiZjqc






https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbT29lA322g
 

merriman

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Magnificent! They have been busy behind the curtain. New hardware to me. Is that the BE-2 engine? Plume looks hydrocarbon to me.

Did they recover the booster?

David
 

seruriermarshal

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merriman said:
Magnificent! They have been busy behind the curtain. New hardware to me. Is that the BE-2 engine? Plume looks hydrocarbon to me.

Did they recover the booster?

David
That's BE-3 engine
 

fredymac

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Picture of Blue Origin's new big launcher planned for operations from Canaveral. This makes things complicated for ULA since they will now be buying a rocket engine from someone who may turn out to be a competitor.
 

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Michel Van

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SUCCESS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pillaOxGCo
 

fredymac

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A little wobbly on the landing burn (starting at the 1:55 mark) but they did seem to make a stable stop/hover prior to dropping the final 50-100 feet. Not bad given the 60 mile altitude. I wonder how high up/fast the Spacex main booster is when it stages? The main difference may be the horizontal velocity component.
 

merriman

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Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

Now, can they turn this thing around with little more than a new tank of gas and a bottom wipe? I assume there's no coking issues with this engine?

David
 

flanker

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fredymac said:
A little wobbly on the landing burn (starting at the 1:55 mark) but they did seem to make a stable stop/hover prior to dropping the final 50-100 feet. Not bad given the 60 mile altitude. I wonder how high up/fast the Spacex main booster is when it stages? The main difference may be the horizontal velocity component.
F9 S1 is at about 90km at sep but its apogee is about 140km. All the velocities are completely different vs NS. It is traveling over twice as fast than NS' booster.
 

fredymac

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Hopefully the day will come when doing this kind of stuff is boring and nobody pays attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igEWYbnoHc4
 

fredymac

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Looks like another flight is coming up.

http://spacenews.com/airspace-restriction-hints-at-blue-origin-test-flight/

WASHINGTON — Blue Origin may be preparing for another test flight of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle, based on an airspace restriction published by the Federal Aviation Administration Jan. 21.

The temporary flight restriction notice covers a region of airspace that corresponds with Blue Origin’s test site north of Van Horn, Texas. The restriction, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern Jan. 22 and 23, is for “space flight operations,” according to FAA, although the notice does not provide any additional information about the nature of the operations.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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It happened today.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=74tyedGkoUc
 

fredymac

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Looks like they may have tweaked the control software and reduced the amount of initial wobbling.

So they re-used the original rocket but didn't go into details on whether they had to do any extensive refurbishment. I don't know if rockets cause significantly more stress on internal components (pumps, bearings, etc) than jet engines but it should be possible to boost the durability once you seriously start engineering for it in the first place.
 

flanker

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fredymac said:
So they re-used the original rocket but didn't go into details on whether they had to do any extensive refurbishment.
They did;

Data from the November mission matched our preflight predictions closely, which made preparations for today’s re-flight relatively straightforward. The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including a noteworthy one. Rather than the vehicle translating to land at the exact center of the pad, it now initially targets the center, but then sets down at a position of convenience on the pad, prioritizing vehicle attitude ahead of precise lateral positioning. It’s like a pilot lining up a plane with the centerline of the runway. If the plane is a few feet off center as you get close, you don’t swerve at the last minute to ensure hitting the exact mid-point. You just land a few feet left or right of the centerline. Our Monte Carlo sims of New Shepard landings show this new strategy increases margins, improving the vehicle’s ability to reject disturbances created by low-altitude winds.
https://www.blueorigin.com/news/blog/launch-land-repeat
 

fredymac

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flanker said:
fredymac said:
So they re-used the original rocket but didn't go into details on whether they had to do any extensive refurbishment.
They did;

Data from the November mission matched our preflight predictions closely, which made preparations for today’s re-flight relatively straightforward. The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including a noteworthy one. Rather than the vehicle translating to land at the exact center of the pad, it now initially targets the center, but then sets down at a position of convenience on the pad, prioritizing vehicle attitude ahead of precise lateral positioning. It’s like a pilot lining up a plane with the centerline of the runway. If the plane is a few feet off center as you get close, you don’t swerve at the last minute to ensure hitting the exact mid-point. You just land a few feet left or right of the centerline. Our Monte Carlo sims of New Shepard landings show this new strategy increases margins, improving the vehicle’s ability to reject disturbances created by low-altitude winds.
https://www.blueorigin.com/news/blog/launch-land-repeat
Wow. They are gutsier than I would have been. I would have stripped down the engine to see if there were any unpredicted signs of damage or wear. They must have confidence in their FEA analysis and design margins. But this is the key to keeping re-use costs low.
 

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Your thinking is NASA thinking. ;)

SpaceX didnt even do that with the OG2 core, and that experienced by far more forces than the New Shepard.
 

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http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/02/technology/blue-origin-jeff-bezos-launch/index.html
 

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Video of 3rd launch and landing. Starting to feel "routine" although you still want to knock on wood when you say that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU3J-jKb75g
 

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Maximum thrust deceleration for touchdown is most efficient, but it sure looks crazy.
 
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