They fly! Blue: The spotlight is on the paintings Origin’s trip to suborbital space

Artist Amoako Boafo holds up one of the portraits that will fly on top of Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule. (Uplift Aerospace Photo)

A little more than a month after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took a rocket ride, his Blue Origin space venture is sending another New Shepard suborbital spaceship to the final frontier — but this time the high-profile payloads are paintings, not people.

Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard Mission is scheduled to liftoff from its suborbital spaceport, West Texas, at 8:35 AM CT (6:00 AM PT) Thursday. However the flight can always be delayed by weather and technical problems.

Bezos, three of his crew members and a reusable vehicle they rode in last month were designed to transport passengers. However, the spaceship that will fly Thursday is specifically built to carry payloads for research. This rocket ship is expected to make its eighth suborbital flight.

Blue Origin offers a countdown video on their website and YouTube. Coverage begins approximately half an hour before launch.

All will go according to plan if the flight goes as planned. The capsule will reach a height of 100 kilometers (62 miles) and touch down on an autonomous landing pad close to the launch site.

The capsule will then experience some weightlessness for a while before it floats down into a parachute-aided landing at the West Texas desert. The entire process should be completed in less than 10 minutes.

This mission’s primary research task is to test a precision landing system for NASA, following up on an initial test that was conducted last October. This guidance system was designed to be used aboard NASA’s Artemis lunar landing craft.

The New Shepard capsule also contains 18 scientific payloads, of which 11 are being supported financially by NASA. One payload will test a process for turning common spaceflight waste products into exhaust gases and useful resources such as water and propellant. Another payload will put a novel method for measuring propellant levels to the test in zero-G.

But the marquee payloads are actually riding on the exterior of the capsule: In cooperation with Utah-based Uplift Aerospace, Blue Origin is flying three portraits that Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo painted on the capsule’s main chute covers. The “Suborbital Triptych”, depicts Boafo’s mother, Otis Kwame Kye Qaicoe’s childhood friend and Boafo.

“A self-portrait looking up to the skies best explains what this project means to me,” Boafo said in a pre-launch statement. The sky is the limit. I grew up believing that it was possible to reach the stars. Now, the project allows me to see the limits of what we can do.

The “Suborbital Triptych”, which is the first of a series “Art x Space” philanthropic initiatives, was created by Uplift.

Blue Origin is also flying thousands of postcards sent in by kids under the auspices of the Club for the Future, the company’s nonprofit educational foundation. Some cards are also connected to contemporary art because they feature space-themed graphics that were created by OK Go Sandbox for their #ArtTogetherNow initiative.

Blue Origin announced after Bezos’ return from Blue Origin’s first ever crewed spaceflight that their next crewed flight will take place between September and October. It is not known yet who will be part of the crew on that mission. This could include customers who paid an undisclosed price for tickets.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital-space program seems to have gone smoothly for the last six years, but its more ambitious programs in Kent, Wash., are currently facing greater challenges.

The first launch of the orbital-class New Glenn rocket has been delayed until late 2022, and Blue Origin is late delivering its BE-4 rocket engines to United Launch Alliance, one of its closest partners in the space industry.

Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance stated that he expects the first BE-4 engines capable of flight to arrive for ULA’s Vulcan rocket’s launch by the end this year. Bruno admitted that delivery might be delayed, but maintained his satisfaction with the BE-4 engines’ performance in testing.

On yet another front, Blue Origin has filed a lawsuit in federal court protesting NASA’s decision not to fund a lunar lander development program that’s led by Bezos’ company. NASA and SpaceX have held up work on a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract pending the outcome of that lawsuit.

A speedy decision will be made around November 1, which could come right on the heels Blue Origin’s next crewed mission to space.

Publited at Thu 26 August 2021, 03:30:47 +0000

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