Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is a heavy user of AM. The company used AM for parts in the New Shepard, New Glenn and Blue Moon vehicles and has a large farm of Raise 3D and Stratasys industrial polymer extrusion systems (which it also used to produce medical PPE supplier at the height of the pandemic-induced supply-chain crisis). Now the company is ready for a major milestone in its journey to take people to space: the NS-15 astronaut rehearsal mission to prepare for upcoming crewed customer flights.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-15 flight is targeting liftoff on Wednesday, April 14, from Launch Site One in West Texas. The launch window opens at 8:00 AM CDT / 13:00 UTC. Building on the incremental and consecutive mission successes for the vehicle over the course of the program’s flight history, NS-15 is a verification step for the vehicle and operations prior to flying astronauts.
During the mission, astronaut operational exercises will be conducted in preparation for human space flight. The primary operations will entail Blue Origin personnel standing in as astronauts entering into the capsule prior to launch.
These astronauts will climb the launch tower, get into their seats, buckle their harnesses, and conduct a communications check from their seat with CAPCOM, the Capsule Communicator. The tower operations team will prepare the capsule cabin for launch and then briefly close the capsule hatch. The astronauts will then exit the capsule prior to launch.
Post-landing, the astronauts will get inside the capsule to rehearse hatch opening, and exiting the capsule at the landing site. Inside the capsule during the flight will be Mannequin Skywalker, along with more than 25,000 postcards on behalf of Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s nonprofit organization. To participate in the postcards program, visit the Club for the Future website here.
As with previous missions, all mission crew supporting this launch are exercising strict social distancing and safety measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks to personnel and surrounding communities. Launch coverage begins at T-1 hour on BlueOrigin.com and will include live footage of the astronaut rehearsal activities.