International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

New Shephard rocket system for cost-effective access to space


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: New Shephard

Mains level: Space tourism

Last week, Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos’s space company called Blue Origin concluded the online auction for the first seat on New Shephard, a rocket system meant to take tourists to space.

What is New Shephard?

  • New Shephard has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard – the first American to go to space – and offers flights to space over 100 km above the Earth and accommodation for payloads.
  • Essentially, it is a rocket system that has been designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line – the internationally recognized boundary of space.
  • The idea is to provide easier and more cost-effective access to space meant for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development, and entrepreneurial ventures among others.
  • Apart from its academic and research-oriented goal, New Shephard will also allow space tourists to experience microgravity by taking them 100 km above the Earth.

Its components

  • The rocket system consists of two parts, the cabin or capsule, and the rocket or the booster.
  • The cabin can accommodate experiments from small Mini Payloads up to 100 kg.
  • As per Blue Origin, the Mini Payloads provide easier space access to students, who are part of educational institutions that are developing their own space programs.
  • Further, the cabin is designed for six people and sits atop a 60 feet tall rocket and separates from it before crossing the Karman line, after which both vehicles fall back to the Earth.
  • All the six seats in the capsule are meant for passengers, each of whom gets their own window seat. The capsule is fully autonomous and does not require a pilot.

How does it work?

  • 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.
  • 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.

A boost for space tourism

  • Space tourism seeks to give laypeople the ability to go to space for recreational, leisure, or business purposes.
  • The idea is to make space more accessible to those individuals who are not astronauts and want to go to space for non-scientific purposes.

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