Jeff Bezos lives his life Blue Origin Rocket Engineer..
Founded in 2000, Bezos, along with his 82-year-old aviator brother Mark Bezos, will be the first passenger on the New Shepard rocket. Wally Funk, And an 18 year old Dutch student Oliver Demen.. The group is set up to strap on a capsule at the top of a five-story rocket on Tuesday. From that moment to landing, their destiny all depends on the rocket and its space capsule.
“Bezos is a risk taker,” John Logsdon, founder of the George Washington University Institute for Space Policy and a former member of the NASA Advisory Board, told insiders. “He certainly understands the risks involved and probably well understands how risky they are.”
It’s hard to say how much risk Bezos is taking for the rest of us who don’t have access to Blue Origin’s rocket design and risk calculations. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the story. However, some important factors provide clues.
New Shepard has made 15 successful flights so far, but has never been boarded by humans. The rocket has excellent test flight records and is equipped with an emergency system that allows passenger capsules to be dumped from a failed rocket. In addition, the total length of the trip is only 11 minutes.
But at the same time, Bezos will fly without a pilot, and perhaps without a spacesuit. And no matter how safe New Shepard is, space flight is always dangerous.According to the report, about 1% of U.S. manned space flights caused fatal accidents. analysis Published earlier this year.
“It’s pretty expensive, about 10,000 times more dangerous than flying on a commercial airliner,” co-author George Neild of the report told insiders. Nield was formerly Deputy Director of the Federal Aviation Administration and headed the Commercial Space Transport Authority.
“To learn this in a safer, more reliable and more cost-effective way, many people believe that we need to increase and continue to gain experience with these flights,” he said. Added. “”[Bezos] Obviously, it is his strong belief that millions of people live and work in space, and he wants to play his part in making it happen. “
Skimming the edges of the space reduces the risk
If everything went according to plan on Bezos’ flight day: The New Shepard rocket launches an engine, ejecting flames and smoke into the plains of western Texas. Ascending forces and the pull of Earth’s gravity (feeling three times as strong as normal) lock the Bezos brothers and their guests in their seats as it screams in the atmosphere.
After 3 minutes, the rocket should separate from the capsule and return to Earth. Passengers will feel weightless beyond the boundaries of space.
Bezos and his companions will be in space for only about three minutes. In the meantime, they can unbuckle and float around the cabin, drifting from one window to another, enjoying the view of the Earth on one side of the spacecraft and the darkness of the universe on the other.
As gravity begins to pull the spacecraft back to Earth, Bezos and his passengers strap on for a fast dive. They will feel a lot of jerk as the three parachutes soar into the air to keep the spacecraft from falling.
The parachute takes the capsule to a calm landing site in the Texas desert, where the recovery crew awaits.
This type of flight is called suborbital flight because the capsule does not go into orbit around the earth. Blue Origin specially designed and manufactured New Shepard to bring high-value customers to the edge of space. The rocket is too small and its engine does not have enough thrust to get into orbit.
However, there are benefits to keeping the flight short and in orbit. Vehicles are easier to control because something is less likely to go wrong, the engine is smaller, and the rocket is slower than it needs to reach orbit.
If Bezos’ flight is successful, the new launch system may look more attractive to future space travelers.
New Shepard has been thoroughly tested and has an emergency escape system
Perhaps the most nail-piercing part of this space flight is when the engine burns for lift-off, when the rocket separates from the capsule, and when the parachute unfolds.
“Rocket engines have high-performance machines that can break, fall apart, and do bad things,” Logsdon said.
New Shepard has performed all these operations over and over again. It has flown 15 times since 2015 and has successfully tested 3 times. Emergency escape system, This dumps the capsule from the failed rocket.
If the parachute fails to deploy, the capsule is designed to give more thrust to the downward engine for a safe landing. If two shoots fail, the crushable “bumper” section at the bottom of the capsule should absorb the impact of the landing.
“We consider capsules to be the most redundant and safest spaceflight system ever designed or flown,” said Gary Lai, senior director of design at New Shepard, at Blue Origin. I will. video Posted online in April about safety. “In most cases, there is a backup to the backup system.”
Logsdon described New Shepard’s testing process as “very thorough” and “slow.” He pointed out that humans were on board the first flight of the Space Shuttle.
“This is a much less risky business compared to the Space Shuttle program,” Logdon said.
Flying without a spacesuit can increase your risk, but it may be safer for someone to vomit.
Since the Challenger disaster in 1986 (the Space Shuttle broke during the launch, killing all seven crew members), all NASA astronauts wore pressurized spacesuits for launch and landing. Was there.
Spacesuits wouldn’t have saved the Challenger rider, but if the space capsule experienced a cabin leak and was still intact, it could save lives.
However, the Blue Origin website shows that New Shepard passengers only wear jumpsuits, not pressurized spacesuits and helmets.by CNN, There is an oxygen mask inside the capsule like an airplane, in case the cabin is decompressed. However, the company does not specify what Bezos or his associates will wear.
Both Nield and Logsdon said the chances of a cabin leak were very small. Therefore, the decision to wear a spacesuit depends primarily on the design of the capsule. It is safe to fly without a spacesuit, especially if you have thick skin and strong windows and the system can handle hiccups and technical errors without endangering passengers.
For tourists traveling by plane, it may be better to skip the spacesuit. First planes are often thrown at launch or landing.
“It’s dangerous to wear a spacesuit if you get sick, especially if you’re not a trained and experienced astronaut,” Neild said.
If you are not well trained to operate your spacesuit, you may choke on your vomit.
Fully automated flight without pilots is not always a safety issue
New Shepard is flying autonomously.
“With that design, no one can make many flights,” Logsdon said.
As long as passengers are properly trained in what to do in an emergency, it is not necessarily more dangerous than a rocket that requires a pilot.
Still, this fully automated launch system is relatively new and many things can go wrong during early flight. Rocket failures can often be traced back to small errors across all kinds of hardware and software. After all, it’s rocket science.
“As we’ve had years of flying millions of planes, it takes some learning before we get a lot of experience, and some surprises along the way. And there are a few things that will happen. There will be more accidents and incidents in the future. ” “In cars, boats, planes, and trains, people die every year, and space flight makes no difference in that regard.”
This post has been updated with new information. Originally published on June 13, 2021.
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