Gravitational Wave Observations

New Shephard Rocket System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Karman Line, New Sphephard

Mains level: Micro-gravity experimentation

New Shephard, a rocket system meant to take tourists to space successfully completed its seventh test launch.

Note the features of the Karman Line. It is a new terminolgy in our recent space vocab.

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 recognised 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.
  • It is built by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Space Company called Blue Origin.
  • In 2018, Blue Origin was one of the ten companies selected by NASA to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars.

How does it work?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Back2Basics: Karman line

  • The Karman line is an attempt to define a boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
  • The line is named after Theodore von Kármán (1881–1963), a Hungarian American engineer and physicist, who was active primarily in aeronautics and astronautics.
  • He was the first person to calculate the altitude at which the atmosphere becomes too thin to support aeronautical flight and arrived at 83.6 km (51.9 miles) himself.

Locating the line

  • The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines Karman Line as the altitude of 100 kilometres (62 miles; 330,000 feet) above Earth’s mean sea level.
  • However, other organizations do not use this definition. There is no international law defining the edge of space, and therefore the limit of national airspace.
  • For instance, the US Air Force and NASA define the limit to be 50 miles (80 km) above sea level.
  • The line is approximately at the turbopause, above which atmospheric gases are not well-mixed.

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