Blue Origin rocket mishap triggers escape system

Blue Origin suffered a mishap Monday during an uncrewed launch of its New Shepard capsule.

A rocket failure roughly a minute after liftoff forced the company to perform an emergency abort midflight, triggering the spacecraft’s escape system. The capsule, which had no humans on board, was seen jettisoning from the booster during a livestream of the launch, before a series of parachutes were deployed.

Blue Origin officials confirmed the launch anomaly on Twitter, adding that the escape system “performed as designed.”

It’s not yet known what caused the rocket failure, but the company said it is looking into the issue. “More information to come as it is available,” officials tweeted Monday.

The mission, known as NS-23, was carrying 36 payloads and experiments from various research institutions on an intended suborbital flight to the edge of space and back. The rocket lifted off at around 10:36 a.m. EDT from Blue Origin’s dedicated launch site in West Texas, near Van Horn.

The company, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, conducts cargo-only missions as well as space tourism flights using its New Shepard capsule and rocket.

A New Shepard capsule containing science experiments after a launch failure Monday. Blue Origin via AP

Monday’s launch marked the 23rd flight of New Shepard. Both the capsule and booster are reusable, but it’s not yet known if the rocket survived intact.

Blue Origin has conducted six suborbital missions to date with humans on board. Its first crewed flight, in July 2021, carried Bezos and three other passengers to the edge of space. Blue Origin’s most recent space tourism flight occurred Aug. 4, but Monday’s launch was the first cargo-only mission for the company since last year.

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