glyph 366: space exploration, development, transportation ... private ventures ... space vehicles, designs, launch facilities . West Texas ... Amazon, Jeff Bezos ... pioneers ... rocket technology ... Jerry Emanuelson, Hummingbird, history of vehicle design, geometry of rockets . vertical take-off and landing ... [online videos]


Blue Origin's Goddard Rocket, First Flight, November 13, 2006

first flight of a novel private space vehicle

Blue Origin has finally released photos and video of the first launch of its prototype vehicle, which occurred on November 13. Blue Origin is the company owned by founder Jeff Bezos.

The photos and videos are on its web site at:

The first flight looks just like what we had envisioned for Hummingbird. The launch vehicle is even about the same size and shape as the proposed Hummingbird vehicle was. It uses a different propulsion system, though. Blue Origin is being very secretive about their entire project, but the reports are that the first vehicle uses kerosene and hydrogen peroxide.

The initial launch went up 285 feet, then backed vertically down on to the launch pad. The launch site is based about 120 miles east of El Paso, Texas; but the headquarters and factory are located just south of Seattle.

This project probably has a better chance of success than any other rocket-based launch vehicle -- since it relies on neither government funding nor brief bursts of outside funding. Jeff Bezos has a steady stream of large amounts of income, and he expects to be funding the project for a very long time. There was a brief Associated Press article about the launch in the January 4 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

—Jerry Emanuelson — accessed January 7, 2007

Development Flight, and We are Hiring

Blue Origin wants you! Actually, Blue Origin needs you and wants to hire you & assuming you're a hard working, technically gifted, team-oriented, experienced aerospace engineer or engineering leader. If you might be interested in joining us, please keep reading.

We're working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system. Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we're working on it methodically. We believe in incremental improvement and in keeping investments at a pace that's sustainable. Slow and steady is the way to achieve results, and we do not kid ourselves into thinking this will get easier as we go along. Smaller, more frequent steps drive a faster rate of learning, help us maintain focus, and give each of us an opportunity to see our latest work fly sooner.

Our first objective is developing New Shepard, a vertical take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital journey into space.

On the morning of November 13, 2006, we launched and landed Goddard — a first development vehicle in the New Shepard program. The launch was both useful and fun. Many friends and family came to watch the launch and support the team.

Jerry Emanuelson was a member of a space vehicle design firm called Hummingbird, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Some years ago (1990-91) I watched as Hummingbird developed the design for a craft that looks almost exactly like the "New Shepherd" vehicle seen in the Blue Origin videos. The last official paper describing the Hummingbird project was dated July, 1991. The former chief engineer of Hummingbird, Doug Jones, has since been employed by other private space companies, first by Gary Hudson's Roton, and currently by XCOR Aerospace, Mojave, California. Jerry explained to me that the reason rockets have historically been long and thin is because they had to pass through German railway tunnels, a design consideration that may not apply in West Texas. -leif smith, 07Jan07

Private space development may lead to the creation of autonomous zones in space. If you find this hard to believe read Engines of Creation by K. Eric Drexler, who argues that planets are excellent places to begin civilizations, but not to preserve them. -leif

Full access to Eric's book online at:
January 7, 2007

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