Blue Origin has launched its New Shepard suborbital rocket for the first time in 15 months. A huge pause in flights was taken after the rocket suffered a launch accident in 2022.
The single-stage New Shepard suborbital rocket was launched on December 19 at 18:41 Kyiv time from the Blue Origin launch site in West Texas. As planned, it flew to the edge of outer space, and then the capsule detached from its upper part. Then the rocket itself returned to Earth and successfully landed vertically, so it can be reused.
The capsule reached an altitude of 104 km, which is four kilometers above the Karman line, the conventional boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space. It then spent several minutes in zero gravity before landing in the West Texas desert using a parachute. The mission, which included 33 scientific and research payloads, lasted a total of 10 minutes and 13 seconds.
Open doors for space tourists
The successful launch is important for Blue Origin, as it brings it one step closer to resuming tourist flights to the edge of space. The space company, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, made six successful flights with New Shepard between July 2021 and August 2022. But in September 2022, an anomaly at an altitude of 8 km led to a sudden rocket explosion.
Fortunately, no one was on board at the time of the accident. In any case, the crew would have been saved by the emergency system, which worked properly, automatically separating the capsule from the launch vehicle, which then returned to Earth and landed safely by parachute.
An investigation into the failed flight revealed that the rocket engine nozzle had suffered “structural fatigue damage.” Corrective measures taken by engineers included redesigning the engine combustion chamber and changing some of its operating parameters.
“Demand for New Shepard flights continues to grow, and we look forward to increasing their frequency in 2024,” said Blue Origin’s Phil Joyce after the successful mission on December 19.
Earlier, we reported that a space tourist shared his impressions of the New Shepard flight.
Based on the materials of blueorigin.com