Not far from Van Horn, there’s a sprawling patch of land that’s off-limits to visitors, known to locals as a test site for the private rocket company owned by Jeff Bezos – Blue Origin. There are fresh clues of activity there, and it’s generating a lot of interest from people like Stephen Clark, editor of Spaceflight Now.
“We’ve found that Blue Origin has filed a request to restrict the airspace over that ranch near Van Horn this week for what they term ‘space flight operations,’ which I guess it means what it says,” Clark says. “We’re expecting a launch there sometime this week.”
Clark says Blue Origin is planning to develop a whole family of rockets. They’re naming the rockets after iconic astronauts – New Shepard, New Glenn, and New Armstrong. Clark says the launch this week is likely the New Shepard.
“It goes up to space and comes right back down. The flights last around 10 minutes,” Clark says. “This type of rocket has flown before, but Blue Origin says they have a new version of the rocket that’s going to debut before the end of the year and that’s what we’re expecting to fly this week.”
“Suborbital means it will go more or less straight up after it launches,” he says, then “go to the edge of space, which is an internationally recognized boundary called the Karman line, that’s about 60 miles or 300,000 feet above the surface of Earth, spend a few minutes weightless, and then come back down and try to land intact. And they hope to reuse it.”
Clark says in the future the New Shepard could carry wealthy space tourists, but they’re almost certain that this launch is just a test flight.
Written by Jen Rice.