New Shephard


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    Recently, Blue Origin has concluded the online auction for the first seat on the New Shephard rocket system.

    • Blue Origin is an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company founded by Jeff Bezos, who is also the founder of the multinational e-commerce giant Amazon.

    About the Auction

    • Over 7,600 people registered from 159 countries to bid for this seat, which ultimately went for a winning bid of USD 28 million, with the winner’s identity yet not disclosed.
    • The winning bidder will get to fly aboard New Shephard, when it takes its first human flight on 20th July 2021, which marks the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing.
      • On the same date in 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans ever to land on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission.


    New Shephard

    • It is a rocket system meant to take tourists to space over 100 km above the Earth and accommodation for payloads.
    • It completed its seventh test launch successfully in October 2020 when it took off from Texas.
    • It has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard, who was the first American to go to space.
    • It will take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line, which is the internationally recognized boundary of space.
      • According to most experts, space starts at the point where orbital dynamic forces become more important than aerodynamic forces, or where the atmosphere alone is not enough to support a flying vessel at suborbital speeds.
      • Historically, it’s been difficult to pin that point at a particular altitude.
      • In the 1900s, Hungarian physicist Theodore von Kármán determined the boundary to be around 50 miles up, or roughly 80 kilometers above sea level. 
      • Based on that, the Kármán line is set at an imaginary boundary that is 62 miles up, or roughly a hundred kilometers above sea level.
      • In 2004, test pilot Mike Melville became the first private astronaut to fly beyond the Karman Line.


    (Image Courtesy: Twitter)


    • Design and Functionality
      • The rocket system consists of two parts, the cabin/capsule and the rocket/booster.
      • The cabin can accommodate experiments from small Mini Payloads up to 100 kg, which provide easier and cheaper space access to students of educational institutions developing their own space programs.
      • The cabin is designed for six people and sits atop a 60 feet tall rocket. It is fully autonomous and does not require a pilot.
      • It separates from it before crossing the Karman line, after which both vehicles fall back to the Earth.
        • After separating from the booster, the capsule free falls in space, while the booster performs an autonomously controlled vertical landing back to Earth.
        • The capsule, on the other hand, lands back with the help of parachutes.
      • The system is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle that accelerates for about 2.5 minutes before the engine cuts off.
    • Significance
      • It will provide easier and more cost-effective access to space for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.
      • It will also allow space tourists to experience microgravity by taking them 100 km above the Earth.
        • Microgravity is the condition in which people or objects appear to be weightless and the effects can be seen when astronauts and objects float in space.


    (Image Courtesy: BBC)


    Space Tourism

    • The ‘fairly newconcept seeks to give laypeople the ability to go to space for recreational, leisure or business purposes.
    • It is another niche segment of the aviation industry that makes space more accessible to those individuals who are not astronauts and want to go to space for non-scientific purposes.
    • Since space tourism is extremely expensive, it is a case of a very small segment of consumers that are able and willing to purchase a space experience.
    • History
      • In 1997, a private company called Space Adventures was founded to offer bookable space-related adventures and send paying customers to orbital space so far.
      • In 2001, Dennis Tito, a US millionaire, became the first space tourist on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to visit the International Space Station (ISS).
      • In 2009, the Russian space agency stopped selling tickets to private citizens.
    • Currently, apart from Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are the major players in the space tourism industry.
      • In 2018, Blue Origin was one of the companies selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect, process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars.
      • In 2019, both signed an agreement that gives Blue Origin permission to use NASA’s historic test stand.
    • The current approach to space tourism and the development of vehicles to access space are virtually all based on extensions of current rocket launch vehicle and rocket plane development.
    • Also, there have been concerns regarding the health of the passengers and accumulation of black carbon in the stratosphere, further increasing the danger of climate change.
    • In order to take a longer-term view of space travel and the development of safer ways to lift humans into Earth orbit and travel into space, new technologies will be needed

    Source: IE