Just over a minute after liftoff, and roughly 8.05 km above ground, the New Shepard booster’s engines flared unexpectedly during ascent.
The capsule’s abort motor system triggered almost immediately, jetting the craft away from the faulty rocket before parachuting back to land intact while the booster engine crashed into the Texas desert, according to the company and a live video stream of the mission.
This is the first time Jeff Bezos’ rocket company has suffered a first launch failure. Thankfully, there was no one aboard, only science experiments.
The booster crashed within a designated hazard area, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees and regulates launch site safety.
Blue Origin’s fleet of New Shepard rockets is grounded until the FAA signs off on the outcome of a company-led investigation into the mishap, the agency added.
Without any humans on board, the rocket lifted off from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site Monday morning as the company’s 23rd New Shepard mission, aiming to send Nasa-funded experiments and other payloads to the edge of space to float for a few minutes in microgravity.
‘During today’s flight, the capsule escape system successfully separated the capsule from the booster,’ Blue Origin tweeted after the mishap. ‘The booster impacted the ground. There are no reported injuries; all personnel have been accounted for,’
The mission, called NS-23, was the first New Shepard launch without humans aboard in over a year, and the fourth mission in 2022.
The rocket-capsule system has flown 31 people in all under Blue Origin’s suborbital space tourism business, in which paying customers are launched some 62 miles high for a few minutes of microgravity at the edge of space before their capsule returns to land under parachutes.
Bezos started Blue Origin in 2000 and was among the first passengers to fly New Shepard during its debut crewed mission in 2021.
The rocket that crashed on Monday had flown eight times before, but it was not immediately clear whether those past missions included humans. Blue Origin flew New Shepard 15 times before its first crewed flight.