51 years ago Alan Shepard became the first American in space. He inspired Blue Origin to name their sub-orbital spacecraft New Shepard.
Blue Origin, founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is developing technologies to provide both sub-orbital and orbital spacecraft for human spaceflight.
The focus is on re-usability and to achieve this the company is developing "Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing" technology.
Blue Origin's sub-orbital spacecraft, New Shepard, has been designed to carry 3 astronauts and would be launched atop a rocket from Blue Origin's own launch site in West Texas.
The rocket and crew capsule would separate after approximately 2 and a half minutes after launch. The rocket would return to Earth and perform a vertical landing whilst the crew capsule would fly to sub-orbital space, providing its passengers with a view of the curvature of Earth. The crew capsule would land under parachute near the launch site.
In addition to New Shepard, Blue Origin is developing a craft for orbital spaceflight, and the company has agreements and funding under NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.
To achieve a key objective of keeping the costs of future spaceflight low, Blue Origin is developing a reusable first-stage rocket booster (see image, left).
After launch the first stage booster, having lifted its spacecraft to the relevant altitude, would descend back to Earth and form a vertical landing. The booster would then be refuelled ready for the next launch.
The space vehicle being developed by Blue Origin is biconic shaped and the company has recently passed a series of tests in a high speed wind tunnel.
The capsule is being designed to carry up to 7 astronauts as well as cargo and science experiments into orbit.
The spacecraft, like the sub-orbital New Shepard, would land under parachute near the launch site.
“Our Space Vehicle’s innovative biconic shape provides greater cross-range and interior volume than traditional capsules without the weight penalty of winged spacecraft,” stated Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin. “This is just one of the vehicle’s many features that enhance the safety and affordability of human spaceflight, a goal we share with NASA.”
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA’s strategy is to use commercial businesses to service low-Earth orbit.
Under NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program several companies are developing spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the space station and low Earth orbit. As well as Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation are also developing craft under CCDev. SpaceX has also designed its Dragon space capsule to be adaptable for carrying astronauts.