Tencent technology news on July 18, us time on July 20, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will take his blue origin company spacecraft to the edge of space. In addition to competing with British billionaire Richard Branson, Bezos has a more important goal in this flight, which is to demonstrate the technology of blue origin and integrate it into orbiters to the moon and even Mars in the future.
Bezos’s journey to the edge of space will be very different from Branson’s. Earlier this month, Branson’s spaceship was carried into the air by the aircraft carrier, and then started the rocket engine to climb to an altitude of 53.5 miles (86 kilometers) above the ground. After experiencing a few minutes of weightlessness, the spacecraft will land on the runway as usual. However, Bezos will continue to enter space in the traditional way, that is, in the capsule at the tip of the rocket.
Propelled by a mixture of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the new Shepard spacecraft will take off vertically from Bezos’ Desert ground in the ranch in western Texas, reach an altitude of 62 miles (about 100 kilometers) and separate from the rocket. Bezos, his brother Mark and two other passengers will enjoy about three minutes of weightlessness.
The rocket booster will first return to earth, accompanied by a sonic boom, which is so fast that it seems to crash until the engine is rekindled. If all goes according to plan, the booster will stir up a dust cloud in the desert and land vertically. In a few minutes, the capsule will float and descend with the help of three parachutes. As the world’s richest man, Bezos will no doubt walk out of the door of the capsule happily.
For Bezos and his private space company Blue genesis, the successful launch of the new Shepard represents a belated victory to some extent. Bezos founded blue origin in 2000 and funded it with revenue from Amazon. As stated in the early mission statement, Bezos also helped to come up with the vague concept of creating a permanent human base in space.
Since starting in a humble warehouse south of downtown Seattle, blue genesis has expanded its business to develop orbital and lunar projects, but has often failed to compete with SpaceX, a space exploration technology company, for lucrative government contracts. SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive. Blue origin currently employs about 3500 people at its headquarters in Kent, Washington, and manufacturing centers in Huntsville, Alabama and Cape Canaveral, Florida.
After years of exploration, Bezos continues to cultivate a more modest original project of blue origin, namely the new Shepard plan, with the goal of building a sub rail tourism business. Over the years, the project has suffered technical setbacks, has been delayed several times, and requires so much money (all from Bezos) that insiders doubt whether it will be profitable.
But for Amazon’s founder and executive chairman, this may no longer be his ultimate goal. He has a lifelong dream of opening up the space frontier. Dylan Taylor, chief executive of Voyager space holdings, an investment firm, said: “the new Shepard project is more about selling inspiration and sales people on the journey blue origins wants, rather than selling tickets.”
Bezos got most of the original inspiration for the origin of blue when he was a child. He saw Apollo land on the moon and spent a lot of time with his grandfather, who worked for the Atomic Energy Commission and DARPA, a research and Development Department of the Department of defense. Bezos delivered a speech at the high school graduation ceremony on the establishment of a human space base on the orbital space station. And it ends with “wait for me there.”. He fell in love with physicist Gerard k.o’neill, who published articles on the development and utilization of solar energy in orbit as a human colony.
The new Shepard was supposed to be the first step in adapting people to this radical future, but it encountered many unexpected obstacles in the process. Bezos initially chose a mixture of kerosene and hydrogen peroxide, an expensive volatile substance. In 2011, blue Genesis lost a prototype spacecraft in a test near Van Horn, Texas, and Bezos authorized the switch to oxyhydrogen. In 2015, blue origin lost its booster in the test. At that time, the booster descended during vertical landing, and the electro-hydraulic drive unit failed.
Similar to Branson and musk, Bezos is a major contributor to the technical architecture of the new Shepard project, which determines details such as the diameter of the fuel tank and the redundancy layer of the safety system, blue origin engineers said. Over the years, he has devoted considerable energy to blue origins, reviewing plans and attending important technical meetings. But in 2017, impatient with the company’s slow progress, he hired Bob Smith, an executive at Honeywell Aerspace, as the first CEO of blue origin.
Bezos is an excellent student in the field of space history. He hopes to hold the first manned mission of the new Shepard in July 2019, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and is also the first human landing on the moon. But blue origin engineers say problems with the spacecraft’s subsystems and avionics, as well as perceptions of increased passenger risk, have led to more delays. Smith also replaced most of blue origin’s senior and technical leadership and brought in many senior employees from established airlines such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Blue origin also hired two former astronauts, Jeff Ashby, who flew NASA’s Columbia, Atlantis and endeavor; And Nicholas Patrick, who has been on the space shuttle Endeavor and discovery missions. The company’s original plan was to require them to take the new Shepard first to assess the experience of paying passengers.
“I never thought Bezos would take part in the first flight,” said a former blue origin engineer But Bezos, like Branson, clearly believed that such flights were safe, and they personally carried out their first manned mission, sending a loud message. “For the company, it means that the boss may not be satisfied with the schedule, but the person trusts us,” the former employee said
However, even if the new Shepard’s manned flight is successful, it will not significantly improve the prospect of blue origin. The company has not yet announced the price of ordinary passengers’ tickets, and it is not clear how fast Bezos will go, or even whether he will carry out the original plan to build an affordable space tourism business. Virgin Galactic plans to send paying passengers to suborbital space next year, with a ticket price of more than $250000 per seat.
Many analysts doubt that Bezos has changed his mind to focus on more ambitious and deeper space ambitions, such as serving the lunar exploration mission. “I don’t think the origin of blue was intended to send the general public into suborbital space,” said Laura Seward forczyk, aerospace industry consultant and analyst at astralytical She believes that the more important goal is to demonstrate technology and integrate it into the orbit of blue origin and deep space vehicles.
The blue origin launch vehicle, new Glenn, will compete with Falcon heavy rockets and starships in the orbital launch market. However, the new Glen is also a few years behind schedule, as is the development of its be-4 engine, which frustrates ula, a close corporate partner of blue origin, whose new rocket Vulcan Centaur needs to rely on the engine of blue origin.
Moreover, blue origin has not improved its prospects for winning government contracts. In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to build a manned lunar lander, which will be the first time since 1972 to send astronauts to the moon. Blue origin protested the decision and lobbied Congress to increase NASA’s funding and sign a second contract.
But if someone has enough resources and determination to stick to it, it’s Bezos. Bezos’s wealth is now estimated at about $211 billion, according to the index, which gives him enough cushion to pursue even the strangest long-term vision. Colleagues said that one aspect of this dream is to build blue origin into a “self-sufficient, cross generation company”. If the new Shepard’s first manned flight is successful, it means Bezos is at least a small step towards its goal（ Tencent technology reviser / Jinlu)