a launcher crashes following an “anomaly”

The capsule was saved, but this bad publicity is anything but ideal for a company betting big on space tourism.

A rocket that took off yesterday under the Blue Origin flag encountered a critical anomaly at the very start of the flight. The operators had to interrupt the procedure along the way. Fortunately, the New Shepard capsule did not embark any humans this time. It was recovered almost intact.

However, the machine took off without any particular problem from the base of Blue Origin in Texas, yesterday at 4:27 p.m., despite a one-hour delay for unspecified reasons. But after a minute and 5 seconds of flight, shortly before reaching 10,000 meters, a problem arose on board.

It seems that we have encountered an anomaly “, then announced Erika Wagner, director of emerging markets at Blue Origin, during the stream. The exact origin of the malfunction has not yet been confirmed by Blue Origin, but several independent experts have suggested on social networks that it could be a problem with the propulsion system.

The capsule was saved

Either way, the vehicle was forced to activate its emergency procedure. The launcher immediately separated from the capsule. Technically, it’s supposed to be recoverable and reusable. But in this specific case, Blue Origin said it crashed somewhere in the Texas desert. The capsule, on the other hand, quickly deployed its emergency parachutes. She was therefore able to come back down to Earth intact.

The objective of the mission was to achieve a suborbital flight. This means that the machine was preparing to make a short passage beyond the frontier of space, but without making any circularization maneuver to settle permanently in orbit. Instead, he would have passed his head beyond the Karman line, established at an altitude of 100 km, before descending very wisely towards our planet.

Even if no human was present on board, the capsule still carried a rather precious payload. She was responsible for carrying 36 different scientific experiments to the gates of space. 18 of them were funded directly by NASA, while the rest came from schools and universities.

Blue Origin did not indicate if this incident damaged any part of the cargo. She merely pointed out that two experiments attached to the outside of the vehicle had probably been destroyed. But the impact seems to have been rather violent; on the images, it seems that none of the side motors which should have damped the collision started.

From now on, the question will be to know what impact this failure will have on the next launches of Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos’ firm is in the process of establishing itself as one of the first operators of tourist space flights, and the big boss of Amazon certainly does not intend to stop there; remember that he himself took place in a New Shepard capsule during his first tourist flight in July 2021.

A brand image to defend at all costs

jeff-bezos-bridge
YouTube screenshot – © Blue Origin

Blue Origin uses slightly different variants of its launcher when it comes to boarding passengers. Technically, there is therefore no need to worry about other vehicles. An investigation has nevertheless been launched to determine the causes of this malfunction. The engineers will pay particular attention to this. Depending on the findings of their investigation, they may need to make preventative repairs to the other New Shepards.

In any case, Blue Origin will have to take this situation very seriously. It seeks to position itself as the undisputed champion of space tourism. Jeff Bezos’ company must therefore absolutely inspire confidence in its future customers; however, the latter could quickly be cooled if incidents of this kind were too frequent.

Otherwise, it could undermine the firm’s current business model. A pressure of which the teams are well aware, as evidenced by the pretty pirouette of communication which Wagner gratified his audience; she wanted to highlight the proper functioning of the emergency system. ” You can see how our safety system took over to preserve the payload during an abnormal situation. Safety is our first priority at Blue Origin “, she adds.

It will therefore be interesting to follow the conclusions of the investigation carried out by the engineers, and if this incident will be likely to discourage some of the wealthy tourists who were considering booking a flight.

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