Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft is grounded until further notice.
New Shepard suffered a booster failure during an uncrewed flight from West Texas on Monday morning (Sept. 12). The vehicle’s capsule successfully engaged its emergency abort system and finished up landing safely under parachutes, however the booster crashed hard back again to Earth.
The mishap caused no injuries no harm to public property, based on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which licenses commercial space launches.
Blue Origin is attempting to know very well what caused Monday’s accident, and the FAA is overseeing the investigation. New Shepard won’t fly again until that investigation is completed to the FAA’s satisfaction.
“Prior to the New Shepard vehicle can go back to flight, the FAA will determine whether any system, process or procedure linked to the mishap affected public safety,” the agency wrote in a statement Monday, in accordance with SpacePolicyOnline (opens in new tab). “That is standard practice for several mishap investigations.”
New Shepard is really a reusable vehicle made to take people and cargo on brief trips to suborbital space. It includes a first-stage booster and a capsule.
Monday’s mission was the 23rd overall for the brand new Shepard program and the 17th to fly without the people onboard. The failure occurred about 1 minute and 4 seconds into flight, once the vehicle was significantly less than 30,000 feet (9,000 meters) above Earth.
It had been a startling moment, especially given New Shepard’s impressive string of spaceflight success: The automobile hadn’t suffered a significant problem since its debut mission back April 2015. And on that flight, everything worked except the booster landing.
It’s unclear just how much Monday’s failure will impact Blue Origin and the space tourism industry more generally; that picture will stay fuzzy before investigation concludes. It’s worth noting, however, that Blue Origin operates multiple New Shepard vehicles at the same time, one for payload-only science missions just like the one which flew Monday and something specialized in space tourist flights. (The business have not disclosed just how much it costs for a seat on the six-passenger New Shepard.)
Mike Wall may be the writer of “ON THE MARKET (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book concerning the seek out alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).