Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, which carried space tourists, fails

Rocket company Blue Origin, led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, suffered its first launch failure on Monday. No one was on board, only science experiments.

The rocket veered off course over West Texas about a minute after liftoff. The capsule’s launch abort system immediately triggered, lifting the craft off the top. A few minutes later, the capsule parachuted onto the remote desert floor.

Blue Origin’s launch commentary fell silent as the capsule was catapulted from the rocket, later announcing, “It appears we encountered an anomaly with today’s flight. This was not expected.”

The accident occurred while the rocket was traveling at almost 1,126 km/h at an altitude of around 8,500 meters. No video of the rocket was shown – only the capsule – after the failure. The rocket usually lands upright on the desert floor, then is recycled for future flights; clearly that did not happen this time.

Launch commentator Erika Wagner said the capsule managed to escape, with the webcast showing it reaching a maximum altitude of more than 11,300 meters. Thirty-six experiments were on board, half of them sponsored by NASA.

“Booster failure on today’s uncrewed flight. Evacuation system performed as expected,” the company tweeted later.

No other details were provided.

1st space tourist flights last year

It was the 23rd flight of the New Shepard program, named after the first American in space, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard. The same type of rocket and capsule was used to carry paying passengers on 10-minute rides to the far reaches of space. It was the ninth flight of this rocket.

Its last passenger flight was last month. Bezos was part of New Shepard’s first crew last summer, while other famous passengers have included Canadian actor William Shatner and NFL Hall of Famer and hello america co-host Michael Strahan.

In total, Blue Origin transported 31 people to the outer reaches of space.

The company has also spent years developing the New Glenn rocket – named after the late astronaut John Glenn – with hopes of a maiden flight in the near future.

Last week, Blue Origin and Amazon were named as part of a coalition of space companies the White House was forming to encourage training opportunities in the space industry, with a focus on “people from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in STEM jobs”. Other participating companies include long-time space industry giants like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as Elon Musk’s Space X and Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit.

Leave a Reply