Blue Origin just launched its crew capsule into space—and then intentionally brought it in for a very soft crash.
Blue Origin’s reusable rocket, which just made its fourth trip to space, hit an apogee of 331,501 feet. It then touched down easily, like we’ve seen in previous flights. But the real action on this test was to see what happened to the crew capsule it was carrying.
Instead of using three parachutes to soften its landing, Blue Origin intentionally failed one to see how it would do with just two. Blue Origin’s commentators during the event said that it would hit the ground at a speed of just 1-2 miles per hour, but the company’s speed monitor appeared to show it at around 20 miles per hour as it hit the ground.
Still—despite that heavy cloud of dust it kicked up at touchdown—the capsule appeared intact at the end. Although, for a full-workup of how the capsule did, we’ll need to wait until Blue Origin retrieves it and checks it out. Assuming all went well, that same rocket and capsule will go back up in a future test flight.
Update 6/20, 10:15 am: Blue Origin spokesperson Julie Arnold contacted us to say that the landing speed shown by Blue Origin’s speed monitor—which in their broadcast is shown as going directly from 19 mph to 0 mph—was not its actual landing speed.
“The retro rocket fires a fraction of a second before touchdown. The mph on the screen did not update fast enough to show the true speed at touchdown,” said Arnold in an email. The speed after the retro rocket fire, says Arnold, was 1-2 miles per hour.