Commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin plans to launch and land its un-crewed New Shepard rocket on Sunday, June 19, and, for the first time, livestream the event online in real time.
Sunday’s launch and landing will actually be the fourth for Blue Origin. The launch is scheduled for 10:15 AM EDT and live broadcasting will begin at 9:45 AM.
By broadcasting the event, the company hopes to address criticism accusing it of a lack of transparency. Previous launches were announced only after their successful completion although the advance announcement of a New Shepard launch in April seemed to signal an effort to move away from such secrecy.
In Sunday’s test, the company will intentionally crash land an empty crew capsule to test its backup systems, including retro-rockets and a “crushable structure.”
The test is crucial because Blue Origin hopes to use New Shepard to ferry tourists into space as soon as 2018.
Current plans call for the reusable rocket to carry a crew capsule holding six passengers to suborbital space 62 miles above the Earth. The passengers will experience four minutes of weightlessness before the capsule falls back to Earth after separating from the rocket.
Reigniting its engines, the rocket will land upright on the ground. To assure the crew capsule experiences a more gentle landing, parachutes will be deployed to safely lower it back to Earth.
Both the rocket and the capsule have successfully landed in previous test flights.
On Sunday, Blue Origin will have two of the parachutes carrying the capsule fail to deploy in order to test the crucial backup systems necessary to keep future passengers alive in the event of a malfunction.
Test flights will continue throughout 2016. Blue Origin hopes to begin piloted tests sometime next year.