Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin is launching both human and scientific payloads to the edge of space at a rapid clip. The NS-23 mission on Monday the 23rd for the New Shepard rocket system does not go according to plan. The rocket became fiery shortly after launch, causing the capsule to perform an emergency separation.
A live broadcast of the launch showed the capsule pulling away from the rocket and then parachuting back to earth near Blue Origin’s launch pad in Texas. The live broadcast host announced the unplanned anomaly and recounted the capsule’s safe return.
“We are responding to an issue this morning at our Launch Site One location in West Texas,” Blue Origin tweeted. “It was a payload mission with no astronauts on board. The capsule’s rescue system functioned as designed. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.” Blue Origin later described the problem such as failure of a rocket booster.
The NS-23 mission carried 36 payloads, including experiments related to hydrogen fuel cell technology, ultrasonic sound waves and even art. NASA funded 18 of the payloads. The capsule appears to have made a normal landing, which portends good equipment on board.
Blue Origin has hosted 31 people on multiple missions, including celebrities like Star Trek’sand TV host Michael Strahan. Its last manned flight took place in early August.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement Monday that it will oversee the investigation into the NS-23 issue. “Before the New Shepard vehicle can return to flight, the FAA will determine whether any system, process or procedure related to the accident affected public safety,” the agency said. “This is standard practice for all accident investigations.”
It can take time to determine the cause of a rocket problem, so there may not be quick answers as to why the booster encountered problems. The anomaly looked dramatic and dangerous, but the successful operation of the capsule’s escape system was good padding in the mission’s failure.