In a dramatic fire reminiscent of the Challenger explosion, a Blue Origin rocket launch failed to achieve its mission of making it to space. The crew capsule and escape system worked as planned, parachuting back to earth.
Short after the unsuccessful launch, the company tweeted, “This was a payload mission without astronauts. The escape system functioned as designed.” As the company explained later Monday, the incident was caused by a booster failure, but the capsule’s escape system “performed as designed” on the uncrewed flight.
FAA statement: “The anomaly triggered the capsule escape system. The capsule landed safely and the booster impacted within the designated hazard area.”
The FAA will determine whether any system, process, or procedure associated with the mishap affected public safety before the New Shepard vehicle can return to flight.
As the rocket approached Max Q, or the time during the flight when the vehicle is most buffeted by the atmosphere, the crew capsule, which had no one inside, ejected from the rocket dramatically. Once the capsule reached the top of the ship, it parachuted back to earth.
There were 36 payloads on the NS-23 mission, including two that flew on the booster’s exterior. There were 18 payloads funded by NASA on the flight, Blue Origin says. According to a tweet from Blue Origin, nine payloads were developed by students in elementary, middle, and high schools.
In addition to testing the efficiency of paraffin and beeswax to make cleaner rocket motor propellants in space, the lab also conducted an artificial intelligence experiment to collect suborbital data from multiple sensors and analyze it in real time.
As part of a company statement released ahead of the launch, two payloads would be exposed to the space environment on the exterior of the New Shepard booster.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Blue Origin’s uncrewed capsule safely escapes after midflight anomaly The Verge
- Blue Origin capsule aborts mid-launch after New Shepard rocket anomaly in Texas Fox Weather
- Blue Origin ‘responding to an issue’ after abort system activated on uncrewed launch CNN
- After Blue Origin’s rocket explodes, its spacecraft makes a dramatic escape Ars Technica
- Blue Origin rocket suffers problem during uncrewed launch The Washington Post