Blue Origin will try out an emergency escape system during a potentially explosive test launch, in a broadcast that will start on Wednesday at 10:45am Eastern.
The company, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, has successfully launched and landed its rocket booster four times already. But lots of things can go horribly wrong when it comes to rocket science, and when you’re planning on carrying tourists into space in 2018, you’ve got to have an escape plan.
In case the New Shepard rocket should happen to blow up during liftoff, Blue Origin has designed a system to thrust a capsule full of wannabe astronauts away from the danger zone, and then parachute softly to the ground. Wednesday’s launch will test the mechanism in an uncrewed capsule. You can watch it here, above.
The capsule should release from the rocket about 45 seconds after liftoff. The force of it pushing off is going to put extra pressure on the booster during an extremely dangerous part of the launch, so the booster is expected to die a fiery death during the test. But if it doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory, it will enjoy a quiet, well-deserved retirement in a museum somewhere.