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New Shephard, the rocket system designed

  Jul 05, 2021

New Shephard, the rocket system designed to provide cost-effective access to space .

Q. What is the news?


  • 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. Over 7,600 people registered from 159 countries to bid for this seat, which ultimately went for a winning bid of $28 million.
  • The winning bidder will get to fly aboard New Shephard along with Bezos and his brother, when it takes its first human flight on July 20, which marks the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing.

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. In 2019, both signed an agreement that gives Blue Origin permission to use NASA’s historic test stand, as a part of a growing number of partnerships between the space agency and the commercial space industry.

Q. 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.

Q. What is 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.
  • A report published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes that the concept of space tourism is “fairly new”. The report mentions that in 1997, the private company Space Adventures was founded to offer “bookable space-related adventures”.
  • In fact, Space Adventures is the only private company to send paying customers to orbital space so far, the report says. In 2004, test pilot Mike Melville became the first private astronaut to fly beyond the Karman Line. which is recognised as the edge of space.

Q. 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. 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, “for less than the price of new football uniforms”.
  • 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 get their own window seat. The capsule is fully autonomous and does not require a pilot.
  • 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.