Prior to launch, Blue Origin flight controllers called a series of reservations, delaying the flight. Take off shortly before 10:30 a.m. east from the company’s launch site in Van Horn, Texas. After clearing the launch tower, it entered what is known as “Max Q,” or the moment when the aerodynamic pressure is greatest on the vehicle as it pushes through the atmosphere on its way into space.
Suddenly, at about 1 minute and 5 seconds into flight, bright flames erupted from the booster and the capsule’s emergency abort system began, spewing it rapidly away from the rocket. The capsule’s parachutes later spread out, and it landed quietly in the West Texas desert.
During the live broadcast of the event, Erica Wagner, Director of Payload Sales at Blue Origin, said: “It looks like we experienced an anomaly with today’s flight. This was off-plan and we don’t have any details yet. But our crew capsule managed to successfully escape.”
On Twitter, Blue Origin wrote: “We are responding to an issue this morning at our first launch site in West Texas. This was a payload mission with no astronauts on board. The capsule escape system is working as designed. More information will come as it becomes available.”
Blue Origin has repeatedly said that it designed the craft to ensure safety, and before anyone flies, it has been thoroughly tested Capsule emergency escape system On the ground and twice during the flight. During one of the tests, they simulated a parachute failure so that the spacecraft landed under two parachutes instead of three.
“Safety is our highest value at Blue Origin,” Wagner said. “That’s why we’ve built a lot of redundancy into the system.”
In an interview last year, Gary Lai, senior director of the New Shepherd design team, said, “Flights are just kind of the tip of the iceberg — the part that floats above the water that people can see. We test the lander, the components, the software, multiple times. More than we fly in. Until the point where we do flight tests, we’re pretty confident that it will work.”
On board the capsule were 36 payloads from schools, universities and organizations, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This was the New Shepard’s fourth flight this year, and the ninth flight for the reusable vehicle, which the company said is intended for aviation, science and research into space.
In all, Blue Origin has flown 31 people into space and was hoping to fly more this year. That will be suspended, while the company investigates what went wrong on Monday’s flight.
The accident comes as the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are working to clarify the matter who investigates spaceflight accidents. last week , Agencies signed an agreement It details how they will work together in the event of an unfortunate accident. The NTSB will be the lead agency for any commercial space accidents that result in fatal or serious injury to any person, or if there is damage to property not related to the launch.
In a statement, the FAA said it would oversee an investigation into Monday’s accident, because “the capsule landed safely and the booster missile impacted within the designated danger zone. No injuries or damage to public property were reported.”
She said that before the New Shepard can return to flight, the FAA “will determine whether any system, process or procedure related to the accident affected public safety.”
In addition to Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic also aims to take paying customers to the edge of space. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has flown a string of NASA astronaut crews to the International Space Station, as well as special astronaut missions. Boeing also plans to begin flying astronauts early next year.