EarthSky | Launches: Blue Origin crewed flights grounded

Launches: A bald man wearing sunglasses and a flight suit, standing in front of a rocket.
Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon in 1994 and Blue Origin in 2000 – poses with the rocket he rode into space in July 2021. Today in Launches, the FAA grounded Blue’s crewed flights Origin following a failed launch on September 12, 2022. Image via Blue Origin.

Launches: Blue Origin crewed flights grounded after misfire

The US Federal Aviation Administration has halted crewed missions aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard-23. This follows an incident during a launch on Monday, September 12, 2022 from Launch Site One in West Texas. An anomaly in the main thruster caused it to miss seconds into the flight. Fortunately, the unmanned cargo capsule he was carrying flew to safety.

Reuters reported that the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will oversee the FAA investigation. He also described the incident:

Just over a minute after liftoff and about 8 km above the ground, the engines of the New Shepard booster unexpectedly burst during ascent. The capsule’s abort motor system fired almost immediately, pulling the craft away from the malfunctioning rocket before parachuting back in to land intact.

Blue Origin’s livestream of the takeoff shows the incident. You can see the instantaneous firing of the capsule’s emergency separation rockets and its parachute descent.

Routine and mandatory survey

Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Don Beyer (D-VA), in a statement released after the misfire, described why the failure is being scrutinized:

Today’s failure of the NS-23 booster is a compelling reminder of the risks of spaceflight. As Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I take our oversight role in this area very seriously.

An FAA statement (reported by SpacePolicyOnline.com) gave a terse account of the events of September 12. She also described the survey as routine and mandatory:

The anomaly that occurred triggered the capsule’s escape system. The capsule landed safely and the booster was hit in the designated danger zone. No injuries or damage to public property were reported. This was a payload-only mission; there were no humans on board.

Before the New Shepard vehicle can resume flight, the FAA will determine whether any system, process, or procedure related to the crash affected public safety. This is standard practice for all accident investigations.

Conclusion: The FAA has grounded crewed flights aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard until it can complete a launch accident investigation on September 12, 2022.

Read more: Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight soars to the edge of space

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