Blue Origin Plans New Shepard Flight Next Week

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) for Dec. 11 through 14 (Monday through Thursday) covering its rocket test site near Van Horn, Texas.

A source tells Parabolic Arc the company will be testing an upgraded version of its suborbital New Shepard booster and capsule with scientific experiments aboard. The spacecraft will have real windows (the ones on the previous capsule were painted on) but is not intended for human flight.

The reusable New Shepard system has launched six times from its West Texas test site. On five occasions, both the booster and the spacecraft landed safely after exceeding the Karman line at 100 km (62 miles). The booster on the first flight crashed while attempting a landing. The capsule landed safely after reaching an altitude of 93.5 km (58 miles).

The most recent New Shepard flight was a test of the capsule’s abort system in October 2016. The spacecraft blasted away from the booster in mid-flight; both vehicles landed safely and were subsequently retired.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Go Blue Origin!

  • Vladislaw

    Good luck to the team… hope to see more flights… can we get a list of what the updates were?
    I didn’t know he was upgrading?

  • Jeff2Space

    Blue is always very tight lipped about what they’re working on. Once it (successfully) flies, hopefully we’ll gain some insight into what was upgraded.

  • delphinus100

    Cool, I’ve been waiting for this. And assuming no significant problems, I’d bet on a manned flight before this summer…

  • Stephen L. Thompson

    That’s like the best early Christmas present. For the last six months or so I’ve been, “Shouldn’t Blue Origin be doing something … soon?”

  • Robert G. Oler


  • ThomasLMatula

    Probably lots of little things that will make it more robust and cheaper to fly, just as SpaceX has been improving its design based on experience. But don’t expect them to reveal what they are, even if ITAR allowed it.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    This one is going to fly with a “real” crew capsule which, among other differences I’d guess, has real windows. The windows on the last crew capsule were painted on.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Well…that blogger I mentioned a few days ago has come through…I do hope we see Blue Origin employees take a trip above 100km altitude sometime in 2018…Imagine how that would look on their Resumes. 🙂

  • ThomasLMatula

    If they do they will have bragging rights over SpaceX which has not yet sent anyone to space 🙂