Blue Origin opens up

I was just sitting down to lunch when a coworker came up to me and asked, “Have you checked out Blue Origin’s web site recently?”

“Umm, no,” I responded.

“You should,” he responded. And I did, and you should, too: the company has provided a major new update on its web site, in the form of a public letter by Jeff Bezos (dated January 2), as well as some photos and videos of the November 13th first flight of Goddard, the first in a series of vehicles for its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. Some initial notes and analysis:

  • The flight itself lasted about 30 seconds, a quick up-and-down flight to an altitude of 285 feet (87 meters). From the grainy video it appears the vehicle, which has a conical, almost capsule-like shape, has nine thrusters in the base, with five arrayed in a cross at the center and four closer to the edges, apparently to provide vectoring.
  • This was not the first attempt to launch Goddard: an attempt a few days before was scrubbed because of winds, according to Bezos (they had reserved airspace with the FAA from November 10th through the 13th)
  • There were a number of friends and family at the site for the test, and the company provided them with a Jumbotron to better see the launch, entertainment for the kids, and “delicious chuck wagon food”.
  • Bezos said his only job at the test “was to open the champagne, and I broke the cork off in the bottle.”
  • Bezos said that he has a slow, methodical approach to development: “We believe in incremental improvement and in keeping investments at a pace that’s sustainable. Slow and steady is the way to achieve results, and we do not kid ourselves into thinking this will get easier as we go along.”
  • The company has a decidedly retro (think 19th, or even 18th or 17th century retro) logo, complete with turtles (a nod, perhaps, to their methodical approach) and the motto “Gradatim Ferociter”. I quick online check reveals that this means something to the effect of “step by step, with spirit”. I’m sure someone who actually knows Latin can come up with a more accurate and elegant translation…

9 comments to Blue Origin opens up

  • Chance

    I got to say, while the video was cool, my first thought was “where are the windows?” I’m sure this craft will go through many changes before it is ready for primetime, but I think that’s a big deal for a suborbital tourist. Also, any comment on the issue I brought up below?

  • Regarding Chance’s comment:
    Why have windows on an unmanned prototype vehicle that will never actually carry people?

  • Jeff Foust

    Chance: As has been pointed out, this is a small-scale prototype, so the lack of windows is not surprising. Also, I don’t know what you mean by your question “any comment on the issue I brought up below?” Could be more specific about the issue in question?

  • Chance

    That’s two comments I’ve submitted that aren’t posting. If this one goes through, I will try again.

  • Chance

    Sorry about the grammer mistakes, when I get frustrated my typing ability plummets.

  • Garry

    I’m guessing space airlines or “spacelines” must be “immune” from a lot of formation laws governing traditional airlines. I believe there is a law introduced in the 1930s (?date) that states that an airline cannot be owned by an engine or airframe manufacturer, yet many spaceship concepts will be flown regularly for airline style operations by the companies that built them.

  • Jeff Foust

    On foreign ownership: launch vehicle operators (like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin) don’t fall into the same regulatory category as airlines, and therefore the foreign ownership restrictions that apply to airlines do not apply to them.

    As for windows, Bezos does state that Goddard is the first in a series of development vehicles, and I would guess that their focus right now is on low-level flight, testing the engines and their takeoff and landing systems. The presence of windows is probably a second-order issue at this stage: something they’re aware of and designing for future vehicles, but less of a concern here compared to other key subsystems.

    Of course, if you think they’re doing it wrong, Chance, you can always apply for an engineering job there and tell them how they should be doing it. After all, they are hiring…

  • Chance

    I can’t put together a model rocket, much less a real one, but thanks you for the answer on the regulatory question.

  • Tony
    the above has a link to a 3:37 audio file that sheds some light on the meaning of gradatim ferociter.

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