Blue Origin suffered an anomaly during an uncrewed space mission today (September 12) but managed to successfully recover its capsule, officials said during a live broadcast.
The company’s unmanned New Shepard capsule activated its emergency evacuation system today after a problem arose with the New Shepard booster shortly before the mission reached an altitude of 30,000 feet (9 000 meters). The escape system worked as expected, keeping the capsule out of trouble and allowing it to descend safely to Earth under parachutes. What happened to the booster is unknown, but it was likely destroyed.
New Shepard lifted off from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas at 10:27 a.m. EDT (2:27 p.m. GMT) today after being delayed nearly an hour for reasons the company did not know. not revealed. Officials have yet to say what caused the problem during launch, which may take some time to investigate. “More information to come as it becomes available”, Blue Origin wrote in a tweet (opens in a new tab).
Blue Origin’s live video of the launch cut from the booster shortly after the anomaly occurred 1 minute and 5 seconds after launch, instead turning to focus on the capsule rather than the rocket.
Related: New Shepard: Rocket for Space Tourism
It is unknown what effect this issue will have on future unmanned or crewed missions, which use different variants of the New Shepard spacecraft.
This is only the second in-flight anomaly encountered by the New Shepard program. The first occurred during the vehicle’s first launch in 2015, when the first-stage booster crashed instead of landing. this payload reached suborbital space as planned.
Blue Origin originally hoped to launch today’s mission – called NS-23, as it was New Shepard’s 23rd flight – on August 31 and then September 1, but poor weather prevented liftoff. two days, company officials said.
The NS-23 mission carried no space tourists aloft today. Instead, it was a cargo-only flight that aimed to carry 36 payloads on a brief jaunt through suborbital space and back, 18 of which were funded by NASA. How the payloads behaved during the anomaly is unclear.
In picture: Launch of Blue Origin’s 1st passenger New Shepard with Jeff Bezos
“Twenty-four payloads come from K-12 schools, universities and STEM-focused organizations,” Blue Origin said. written in an August 24 update (opens in a new tab), which includes detailed descriptions of some of the experiments. (“STEM” stands for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics”.)
“That’s double the number of education-focused payloads compared to previous payload flight manifestos,” the company, led by Jeff Bezos, added in the update. “In many cases, these payloads expose students as early as elementary school to STEM skills such as coding, environmental testing and CAD. [computer-aided design] design is often not taught until university.”
New Shepard consists of a rocket and a capsule, both reusable. Blue Origin currently operates two sets of New Shepard vehicles, one for space tourism and one for payload-only flight.
The company has launched six crewed missions so far, starting in July 2021. The NS-23 was the first payload-only flight since August last year.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab).
Space.com editor Elizabeth Howell contributed reporting on the anomaly. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).