Liveblog: Blue Origin is likely to blow up its rocket Wednesday

Blue Origin's propulsion module lands in West Texas. (credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has launched and landed its New Shepard booster four times, but the reusable rocket party may come to an end Wednesday morning (Note: Poor weather in West Texas forced the company to delay the test for one day). That's because the company plans an in-flight test of its launch abort system and will intentionally trigger it about 45 seconds after launch at an altitude of 16,000 feet. Such systems are designed to fire quickly and separate the crew capsule from the booster during an emergency.

Blue Origin flight test.

"The high-acceleration portion of the escape lasts less than two seconds, but by then the capsule will be hundreds of feet away and diverging quickly," Bezos wrote last month. "It will traverse twice through transonic velocities—the most difficult control region—during the acceleration burn and subsequent deceleration. The capsule will then coast, stabilized by reaction control thrusters, until it starts descending."

But the booster will likely not be so lucky. The propulsion module, powered by a single BE-3 engine, was not designed to survive an in-flight escape, as it will be slammed with 70,000 pounds of off-axis force and hot exhaust. At Max-Q, it is not clear whether the propulsion module will break apart. If it somehow survives, the booster will likely be placed in a museum. If not, it's expected to produce some fireworks upon impact with the Texas desert floor.

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