New Shepard
New Shepard booster at Oshkosh Airventure 2017 01 (35975649982).jpg
New Shepard 2 (without capsule) at the 2017 EAA AirVenture convention
ManufacturerBlue Origin
Country of originUnited States of America
Height18m (60ft)
Diameter3.7m (12.1ft)
Launch history
Launch sitesLaunch Site One
Total launches23
First flight29 April 2015
Single stage
Powered by1 BE-3
Maximum thrust490 kN (110,000 lbf)
Burn time141 seconds
PropellantLH2 / LOX
New Shepard Rocket, booster and capsule
New Shepard Rocket, booster and capsule

New Shepard is a fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle developed for space tourism by Blue Origin. The vehicle is named after Alan Shepard who, in 1961, became the first American to travel into space, and later became the fifth person to walk on the moon. The vehicle is capable of vertical takeoff and landings and can carry humans and customer payloads to the edge of space.

The New Shepard launch vehicle is one-stage and consists of a booster rocket and a crew capsule. The capsule can seat up to six passengers, or science experimets financed by other companies. The booster rocket is powered by one BE-3 engine, which sends the capsule to an altitude of over 100 km and flies above the Kármán line, where passengers and cargo can experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the capsule returns to Earth.

The launch vehicle is designed to be fully reusable, with the capsule returning to Earth via parachute and the booster landing vertically on the same launchpad it took off from. Blue Origin has successfully launched and landed the New Shepard launch vehicle 21 times.


Timeline of Space­Ship­One, Space­Ship­Two, CSXT and New Shepard sub-orbital flights. Where booster and capsule achieved different altitudes, the higher is plotted. In the SVG file, hover over a point to show details.

The first development vehicle of the New Shepard development program was a sub-scale demonstration vehicle named Goddard, built in 2006 following earlier engine development efforts by Blue Origin. Goddard made its first flight on 13 November 2006.[1] The Goddard launch vehicle was assembled at the Blue Origin facility near Seattle, Washington. The test vehicle named Goddard (also known as PM1), first flew on November 13, 2006. The flight was successful. A test flight for December 2 never launched. According to Federal Aviation Administration records, two further flights were performed by Goddard. Blue Engine 1, or BE-1, was the first rocket engine developed by Blue Origin and was used in the company's Goddard development vehicle.

On the path to developing New Shepard, a crew capsule was also needed, and design was begun on a space capsule in the early 2000s. One development milestone along the way became public. On 19 October 2012, Blue Origin conducted a successful pad escape of a full-scale suborbital crew capsule at its West Texas launch site. For the test, the capsule fired its pusher escape motor and launched from a launch vehicle simulator. The Crew Capsule traveled to an altitude of 703 m (2,307 ft) under active thrust vector control before descending safely by parachute to a soft landing 500 m (1,630 ft) downrange.[2][3]

In April 2015, Blue Origin announced that they had completed acceptance testing of the BE-3 engine that would power the larger New Shepard vehicle. Blue Origin also announced that they intended to begin flight testing of the New Shepard later in 2015, with initial flights occurring as frequently as monthly, with "a series of dozens of flights over the extent of the suborbital test program [taking] a couple of years to complete".[4] The same month, the FAA announced that the regulatory paperwork for the test program had already been filed and approved, and test flights were expected to begin before mid-May 2015.[5]

By February 2016, three New Shepard vehicles had been built. The first was lost in a test in April 2015, the second had flown twice (see below), and the third was completing manufacture at the Blue Origin factory in Kent, Washington.

New Shepard, booster performing a vertical landing at "launch Site One"
New Shepard, booster performing a vertical landing at "launch Site One"

In 2016, the Blue Origin team were awarded the Collier Trophy for demonstrating rocket booster reusability with the New Shepard human spaceflight vehicle.[6]

On July 20, 2021, the company successfully completed its first crewed mission, Blue Origin NS-16, into space using its New Shepard launch vehicle. The flight was approximately 10 minutes and crossed the Kármán line. New Shepard performed six crewed flights between July 2021 and August 2022, taking a mix of sponsored celebrities such as Wally Funk, William Shatner as well as paying customers. New Shepard ticket sales brought in $50 million through June 2022. On July 20, 2021, the New Shepard performed its first crewed mission into space. The flight lasted approximately 10 minutes and crossed the Kármán line. The passengers were Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen, after the unnamed auction winner (later revealed to have been Justin Sun) dropped out due to a scheduling conflict. The second and third crewed missions of New Shepard took place in October and December 2021. The Fourth crewed flight happened in March 2022. On June 4, 2022, New Shepard completed its fifth crewed mission launch and the sixth crewed flight took place on August 4, 2022. In September 2022, an uncrewed mission of the New Shepard had an anomaly due to a failure of the BE-3 main engine. The launch escape system triggered and the capsule landed safely. The remaining New Shepard launch vehicles were grounded pending an FAA investigation into the incident. After a six-month investigation, Blue Origin pinpointed the cause of the anomaly as a thermal-structure failure of the BE-3 engine nozzle which caused a thrust misalignment that triggered the capsule's emergency escape system to activate. Blue Origin said in its press release that New Shepard flights would resume as soon as possible.

New Shepard Versions

New Shepard 1

The first flight of the full-scale New Shepard vehicle was NS1,[7] also called "Tail 1"[8] and was conducted on 29 April 2015 during which an altitude of 93.5 km (58.1 mi) was attained. While the test flight itself was deemed a success, and the capsule was successfully recovered via parachute landing, the booster crash landed and was not recovered due to a failure of hydraulic pressure in the vehicle control system during descent.[9][10] The capsule was called RSS Jules Verne.[11]

New Shepard 2

The New Shepard 2 (NS2), also called "Tail 2",[8] flight test article propulsion module made five successful flights in 2015 and 2016, being retired after its fifth flight in October 2016.

New Shepard 3

New Shepard 3 (NS3), also called "Tail 3",[8] along with capsule RSS H. G. Wells,[12] was modified for increased reusability and improved thermal protection; it includes a redesigned propulsion module and the inclusion of new access panels for more rapid servicing and improved thermal protection. NS3 is the third propulsion module built. It was completed and shipped to the launch site by September 2017,[13] although parts of it had been built as early as March 2016.[7] Flight tests began in 2017 and continued into 2019.[14] The new Crew Capsule 2.0, featuring windows, is integrated to the NS3.[13] NS3 will only ever be used to fly cargo; no passengers will be carried.[15]

Its initial flight test occurred on 12 December 2017.[16] This was the first flight flown under the regulatory regime of a launch license granted by the US Federal Aviation Administration. Previous test flights had flown under an experimental permit, which did not allow Blue Origin to carry cargo for which it is paid for commercially. This made the flight of NS3 the first revenue flight for payloads, and it carried 12 experiments on the flight, as well as a test dummy given the moniker "Mannequin Skywalker."[17]

Since the maiden flight, "Blue Origin has been making updates to the vehicle ... intended primarily to improve operability rather than performance or reliability. Those upgrades took longer than expected" leading to a several-month gap in test flights.[14] The second test flight took place on 29 April 2018.[18] The 10th overall New Shepard flight, and the fourth NS3 flight, had originally been planned for December 2018, but was delayed due to "ground infrastructure issues." Following a diagnostics of the initial issue, Blue Origin rescheduled the launch for early 2019, after discovering "additional systems" that needed repairs as well.[19] The flight launched on 23 January 2019 and successfully flew to space with a maximum altitude of 106.9 km (66.4 mi).[20] It has been used to test SPLICE ("Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution"), a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration, on two separate flights in October 2020 (NS-13) and August 2021 (NS-17).[21]

New Shepard 3 booster was destroyed during the NS-23 mission once it impacted the ground on 12 September 2022 after a booster engine anomaly led to the activation of the in-flight abort system. The capsule made a successful landing under parachutes.[22] This was the ninth flight of NS3, and the flight was not carrying any people on board.[23][24]

New Shepard 4

New Shepard 4 (NS4), also called "Tail 4",[8] which flies with capsule RSS First Step, was the fourth propulsion module to be built and the first to carry human passengers. Bezos himself was a passenger.[25] The vehicle was manufactured in 2018 and moved to the Blue Origin West Texas launch facility in December 2019.[26] The uncrewed maiden launch of NS4 occurred on 14 January 2021.[27] NS4 was successfully launched on 20 July 2021, with four passengers; Jeff Bezos was aboard this maiden crewed flight. On 13 October 2021, NS4 successfully launched and landed, carrying four passengers, including notable passenger William Shatner.[28] On 11 December 2021, the Blue Origin NS-19 successfully launched into space. The ship's passengers included NFL legend and television personality Michael Strahan, Alan Shepard's daughter Laura Shepard Churchley, who flew into space 60 years after her father's flight, and four other people.[29][30] This was the first time New Shepard carried six passengers, the full design passenger complement. The fourth crewed flight took place 31 March 2022, with a Blue Origin employee and five other passengers on board. The fifth crewed flight took place 4 June 2022, and the sixth crewed flight took place 4 August 2022.

Crewed flights

In June 2018, the company announced that while it continued to plan to fly initial internal passengers later in 2018, it would not be selling commercial tickets for New Shepard until 2019[31] but the first commercial crewed flight was delayed until 2021.[32]

Blue Origin commenced the first flight carrying passengers on the 16th flight of New Shepard (NS-16) on 20 July 2021.[32] One commercial seat was auctioned on 12 June 2021 for US$28 million which went to Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, which inspires future generations to pursue careers in STEM. However, due to scheduling problems, the $28M auction winner did not participate in the NS-16 flight. The $28M auction winner was rescheduled to fly at a later flight. The passengers aboard the NS-16 flight on 20 July 2021 were Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk and Oliver Daemen. At 82 years old Funk was the oldest person, and at 18 Daemen was the youngest, to travel into space.[33][34][35] Daemen got the commercial seat that the $28M auction winner did not use. Daemen's flight was paid for by his father Joes Daemen, who, after the anonymous $28M auction winner dropped out of the flight, was able to secure the seat on the flight due to being the second highest bidder on the auction. Joes paid for the seat and gave it to his son, thus making Oliver Daemen the first commercial passenger of New Shepard.[36][37][38] On 22 December 2021, it was made public that the $28 million mystery auction winner was Justin Sun, a Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur. The $28 million he bid was paid to Blue Origin, who in turn gave it to their charity Club for the Future, which in turn distributed most of the money to other space-related nonprofit organizations. Instead of flying on the flight in July 2021 to which he won the auctioned seat, Mr. Sun has agreed with Blue Origin to Mr. Sun buying (presumably with the $28 million that has already been paid to Blue Origin) a dedicated New Shepard flight in 2022. Mr. Sun will choose five passengers to accompany him on this flight in late 2022.[39]

The second crewed flight took place on 13 October 2021, carrying four passengers, two of whom were paying passengers. The flight included the actor William Shatner who flew as "guest" of Blue Origin (i.e., he did not pay for his flight).[28]

On 11 December 2021, the third crewed flight, Blue Origin NS-19, successfully launched into space. The ship's passengers included NFL legend and television personality Michael Strahan and Alan Shepard's daughter Laura Shepard Churchley as "guests" of Blue Origin (i.e., they did not pay for their flights), and four other people who were paying passengers.[29]

The fourth crewed flight, Blue Origin NS-20, flew successfully on 31 March 2022. Onboard was Gary Lai, a Blue Origin employee and five paying passengers. This was the first flight with no celebrity passengers.[40][41]

The fifth crewed flight, Blue Origin NS-21, flew successfully on 4 June 2022. Onboard was educational YouTuber Katya Echazarreta, whose flight had been partly sponsored by Blue Origin, and partly by other sources, and five other paying passengers (it could be that it has been mistakenly claimed that Echazarreta's flight was sponsored by Blue Origin and instead it was fully sponsored by Space for Humanity, a nonprofit organization[42]). Also onboard was Blue Origin's first repeat customer for New Shepard launches, Evan Dick.

The 6th crewed flight took place 4 August 2022. Among the passengers was Coby Cotton, one of the founders of the popular YouTube channel Dude Perfect. His flight was paid for by the organization MoonDAO, which works in cryptocurrency to "decentralize access to space", and bought two seats from Blue Origin. One of the seats was used by Cotton and one to be used in the future by Kejun Yan.[43] It was reported that MoonDAO had paid about $2.5 million for the two seats on Blue Origin flights, or $1.25 million per seat. This is the first public figure available for the price to ride a Blue Origin rocket to suborbital space (not counting the $28 million winning bid in the auction for a seat on the first flight).[44] However, Blue Origin does not charge all their passengers the same price, but tailors the price individually to each passenger, so it is hard to define the "ticket price" for New Shepard.[42] Also on the 4 August 2022 flight were the first space travellers of Egyptian and Portuguese origin, and the flight was the first flight (it may have been that the previous flight Blue Origin NS-21 on 4 June 2022 was actually the first such flight, if Katya Echazarreta's flight was not sponsored by Blue Origin, see above) where all six passengers were paying passengers (i.e., their flights were financed by other entities than Blue Origin).[45][46]

Up to late June 2022 (after the fifth crewed flight Blue Origin NS-21), Blue Origin has generated more than $100 million from the New Shepard space tourism program.[42]

Blue Origin flight data

Flight No. Date Vehicle Apogee Outcome Notes
1 March 5, 2005 Charon 315ft (0.05mi) Success Test Flight
2 November 13, 2006 Goddard 279ft (0.05mi) Success First rocket-powered test flight[1]
3 March 22, 2007 Goddard[2] N/A Success Test Flight
4 April 19, 2007 Goddard[3] N/A Success Test Flight
5 May 6, 2011 PM2 (Propulsion Module)[4] N/A Success Test Flight
6 August 24, 2011 PM2 (Propulsion Module) ♺ N/A Failure Test Flight
7 October 19, 2012 New Shepard capsule N/A Success Pad escape test flight[5]
8 April 29, 2015 New Shepard 1 307,000 feet (58.1 mi; 94 km) Partial success Flight to altitude 93.5 km, capsule recovered, booster crashed on landing[6]
9 November 23, 2015 New Shepard 2 329,839 feet (62.4695 mi; 100.535 km) Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing[7]
10 January 22, 2016 New Shepard 2 333,582 feet (63.1784 mi; 101.676 km) Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing of a reused booster[8]
11 April 2, 2016 New Shepard 2 339,178 feet (64.2383 mi; 103.381 km) Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing of a reused booster[9]
12 June 19, 2016 New Shepard 2 331,501 feet (62.7843 mi; 101.042 km) Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing of a reused booster: The fourth launch and landing of the same rocket. Blue Origin published a live webcast of the takeoff and landing.[10]
13 October 5, 2016 New Shepard 2 Booster:307,458 feet (58.2307 mi; 93.713 km)

Capsule:23,269 feet (4.4070 mi; 7.092 km)

Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing of a reused booster. Successful test of the in-flight abort system. The fifth and final launch and landing of the same rocket (NS2).[11]
14 December 12, 2017 New Shepard 3 Booster:332,032 feet (62.8848 mi; 101.203 km)

Capsule:322,405 feet (61.0616 mi; 98.269 km)

Success Flight to just under 100 km and landing. The first launch of NS3 and a new Crew Capsule 2.0.[12]
15 April 29, 2018 New Shepard 3 351,000 feet (66.5 mi; 107 km) Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing of a reused booster.[13]
16 July 18, 2018 New Shepard 3 389,846 feet (73.8345 mi; 118.825 km) Success Sub-orbital spaceflight and landing of a reused booster, with the Crew Capsule 2.0–1 RSS H.G.Wells, carrying a mannequin. Successful test of the in-flight abort system at high altitude. Flight duration was 11 minutes.[14]
17 January 23, 2019 New Shepard 3 351,000 feet (66.5 mi; 107 km) Success Sub-orbital flight, delayed from December 18, 2018. Eight NASA research and technology payloads were flown.[15][16]
18 May 2, 2019 New Shepard 3 346,000 feet (65.5 mi; 105 km) Success Sub-orbital flight. Max Ascent Velocity: 2,217 mph (3,568 km/h),[17] duration: 10 minutes, 10 seconds. Payload: 38 microgravity research payloads (nine sponsored by NASA).
19 December 11, 2019 New Shepard 3 343,000 feet (65.0 mi; 105 km) Success Sub-orbital flight, Payload: Multiple commercial, research (8 sponsored by NASA) and educational payloads, including postcards from Club for the Future.[18][19][20]
20 October 13, 2020 New Shepard 3 346,000 feet (65.5 mi; 105 km) Success 7th flight of the same capsule/booster. Onboard 12 payloads include Space Lab Technologies, Southwest Research Institute, postcards and seeds for Club for the Future, and multiple payloads for NASA including SPLICE to test future lunar landing technologies in support of the Artemis program[21]
21 January 14, 2021 New Shepard 4 350,858 feet (66.4504 mi; 106.942 km) Success Uncrewed qualification flight for NS4 rocket and "RSS First Step" capsule and maiden flight for NS4.[22]
22 April 14, 2021 New Shepard 4 348,753 feet (66.0517 mi; 106.300 km) Success 2nd flight of NS4 with Astronaut Rehearsal. Gary Lai, Susan Knapp, Clay Mowry, and Audrey Powers, all Blue Origin personnel, are "stand-in astronauts". Lai and Powers briefly get in.[23]
23 July 20, 2021 New Shepard 4 351,210 feet (66.517 mi; 107.05 km) Success First crewed flight (NS-16). Crew: Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and Oliver Daemen.[24]
24 August 26, 2021[25] New Shepard 3 347,434 feet (65.8019 mi; 105.898 km) Success Payload mission consisting of 18 commercial payloads inside the crew capsule, a NASA lunar landing technology demonstration installed on the exterior of the booster and an art installation installed on the exterior of the crew capsule.[26]
25 October 13, 2021 New Shepard 4 341,434 feet (64.6655 mi; 104.069 km) Success Second crewed flight (NS-18). Crew: Audrey Powers, Chris Boshuizen, Glen de Vries, and William Shatner.[27]
26 December 11, 2021 New Shepard 4 351,050 feet (66.487 mi; 107.00 km) Success Third crewed flight (NS-19). Crew: Laura Shepard Churchley, Michael Strahan, Dylan Taylor, Evan Dick, Lane Bess, and Cameron Bess.[28]
27 March 31, 2022 New Shepard 4 351,050 feet (66.487 mi; 107.00 km) Success Fourth crewed flight (NS-20). Crew: Marty Allen, Sharon Hagle, Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, George Nield, and Gary Lai.[29]
28 June 4, 2022 New Shepard 4 351,050 feet (66.487 mi; 107.00 km) Success Fifth crewed flight (NS-21). Crew: Evan Dick, Katya Echazarreta, Hamish Harding, Victor Correa Hespanha, Jaison Robinson, and Victor Vescovo.[30]
29 August 4, 2022 New Shepard 4 351,050 feet (66.487 mi; 107.00 km) Success Sixth crewed flight (NS-22). Crew: Coby Cotton, Mário Ferreira, Vanessa O'Brien, Clint Kelly III, Sara Sabry, and Steve Young.[31]
30 September 12, 2022 New Shepard 3 37,402 feet (7.0837 mi; 11.400 km) Failure Uncrewed flight with commercial payloads onboard (NS-23). A booster failure triggered the launch escape system during flight, and the capsule landed successfully. Blue Origin mentioned in its press release on the incident that a thermal-structural failure occurred on the BE-3 nozzle.


New Shepard Crew Capsule RSS H. G. Wells after landing on 12 December 2017
New Shepard Crew Capsule RSS H. G. Wells after landing on 12 December 2017

The New Shepard is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle composed of two principal parts: a pressurized crew capsule and a booster rocket that Blue Origin calls a propulsion module.[10] The New Shepard is controlled entirely by on-board computers, without ground control[4] or a human pilot.[47]

Crew capsule

The New Shepard Crew Capsule is a pressurized crew capsule that can carry six people, and supports a "full-envelope" launch escape system that can separate the capsule from the booster rocket anywhere during the ascent.[48] The interior volume of the capsule is 15 cubic meters (530 cu ft).[49] The Crew Capsule Escape Solid Rocket Motor (CCE-SRM) is sourced from Aerojet Rocketdyne.[50] After separation from the booster, three parachutes deploy for a soft landing, at aproximently 24 km/h (15 mph) for the passengers.

New Shepard propulsion module
New Shepard propulsion module

Flight profile

The New Shepard is launched vertically from West Texas and then performs a powered flight for about 110 seonds, up to an altitude of 40 km (25 mi). The vehicle then continues climbing upwards moreand more slowly due to the craft's momentum, culminating at an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi). After reaching apogee, the vehicle performs a descent and restart its main engines a few tens of seconds before vertical landing, close to its launch site.[51][better source needed] The total flight duration of the rocket is over 7 minutes.

The crewed variant features a separate crew module that separates close to peak altitude, and the propulsion module performs a powered landing while the crew module lands under parachutes. Total flight time is around 10 minutes. The crew module can also separate in case of a vehicle malfunction or other emergency using solid propellant separation boosters, then performing a parachute landing.[47][52]

Involvement with NASA Commercial Crew Development Program

Additionally, Blue Origin received US$3.7 million in Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) phase 1 to advance several development objectives of its innovative "pusher" Launch Abort System (LAS) and composite pressure vessel.[53]

As of February 2011, with the end of the second ground test, Blue Origin completed all work envisioned under the phase 1 contract for the pusher escape system. They also "completed work on the other aspect of its award, risk reduction work on a composite pressure vessel" for the vehicle.[54]

NASA suborbital research payloads

NASA Suborbital Research Payloads

"New Shepard offers flights to space over 100 kilometers (62 miles) for payloads inside our cabin or with direct exposure to the space environment. With minutes of high-quality microgravity or partial-G, access to the Kármán Line, and gentle return of payload, New Shepard is transforming access to space research."- New Shepard Payloads,

Alan Shepard, the first American in space and New Shepard's namesake, in the Freedom 7 capsule before his May 5, 1961, launch
Alan Shepard, the first American in space and New Shepard's namesake, in the Freedom 7 capsule before his May 5, 1961, launch

As of March 2011, Blue Origin had submitted the New Shepard reusable launch vehicle for use as an uncrewed rocket for NASA's suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV) solicitation under NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. Blue Origin projects 100 km (62 mi) altitude in flights of approximately ten minutes duration, while carrying an 11.3 kg (25 lb) research payload.[55] By March 2016, Blue Origin noted that they are "due to start flying unaccompanied scientific payloads later [in 2016]."[47] On April 29, 2018, during its eighth flight New Shepard carried the Schmitt Space Communicator SC-1x, a three-pound device developed by Solstar that launched the first commercial wi-fi hotspot service in space and sent the first commercial Twitter message from space.[56][57] NASA provided a part of the $2 million project's funding as a part of its Flight Opportunities program.[58][59]

On 12 September 2022, eighteen NASA payloads were flying on NS-23[60] when an in-flight failure of the booster's main engine caused an emergency ejection of the payload capsule. The payload capsule landed safely and was recovered whilst the booster was lost.[23]

Involvement with NASA Commercial Crew Development Program

Additionally, Blue Origin received US$3.7 million in Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) phase 1 to advance several development objectives of its innovative "pusher" Launch Abort System (LAS) and composite pressure vessel.[53]

As of February 2011, with the end of the second ground test, Blue Origin completed all work envisioned under the phase 1 contract for the pusher escape system. They also "completed work on the other aspect of its award, risk reduction work on a composite pressure vessel" for the vehicle.[54]

See also


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