CAPE CANAVERAL — A rocket crashed to Earth shortly after liftoff Monday in Jeff Bezos’ space travel company’s first launch accident, but the capsule carrying experiments managed to parachute safely.
No one was on board the Blue Origin flight, which used the same type of rocket that sends paying customers to the far reaches of space. The rockets are now grounded pending the outcome of an investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The New Shepard rocket was barely a minute into its flight from West Texas when bright yellow flames erupted around the single engine at the bottom. The capsule’s emergency launch abort system immediately triggered, lifting the craft off the top. A few minutes later, the capsule parachuted onto the remote desert floor.
The rocket crashed, with no injuries or damage reported, said the FAA, which is in charge of public safety during commercial space launches and landings.
Blue Origin’s launch commentary remained silent as the capsule blasted off the rocket on Monday morning, finally announcing, “It appears we’ve encountered an anomaly with today’s flight. It was not planned. »
“Booster failure on today’s uncrewed flight. Evacuation system worked as intended,” the Kent, Wash.-based company tweeted nearly an hour later.
The company later said the rocket crashed.
The crash occurred while the rocket was traveling at nearly 700 mph (1,126 km/h) at an altitude of about 28,000 feet (8,500 meters). No video of the rocket – only the capsule – was shown after the failure. This happened around the point where the rocket is under maximum pressure, called max-q.
The rocket usually lands upright on the desert floor and then is recycled for future flights.
The webcast showed the capsule reaching a maximum altitude of over 37,000 feet (11,300 meters). Thirty-six experiments were on board to be exposed to a few minutes of weightlessness. Half were sponsored by NASA, mostly students.
It was the 23rd flight of the New Shepard program, named after the first American in space, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard. This was the ninth flight of this particular rocket-capsule pair, dedicated to flight experiments.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free newsletter Stephinitely
Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share her thoughts, feelings and fun stuff with you every Monday.
You are all registered!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s start.
Explore all your options
Blue Origin’s most recent theft with paying customers only happened last month; the ticket price has not been published. Bezos was part of New Shepard’s first crew last year. In total, Blue Origin carried 31 people on 10-minute flights, including actor William Shatner.
The rocket should have been launched nearly two weeks ago, but was grounded until Monday by bad weather.
By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.