Blue Origin tweeted a video showing the moment the capsule fired emergency thrusters to separate from its booster
Washington (AFP) – An unmanned rocket carrying Blue Origin research payloads crashed shortly after takeoff from Texas on Monday, but the capsule carrying the experiments survived and returned safely to Earth.
The accident represents a setback for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos as well as the space tourism industry, although observers have been encouraged by the fact that if there were people on board, they would likely be alive.
Blue Origin tweeted a short video showing the moment the capsule launched emergency thrusts to separate itself from its booster rocket early, about a minute after it was launched from the company’s base in West Texas.
Failed to boost on today’s flight without a crew. The escape system is working as designed, Blue said on his website, noting that the missile “hit the ground” rather than landing upright as it normally does.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the new Shepherd suborbital missiles have been grounded pending investigation, a standard procedure.
“The capsule landed safely and the booster impacted within the designated danger zone. The FAA added that there were no reports of injuries or damage to public property.
This was the 23rd mission of the New Shepard rocket program, named after the first American in space, and the first that ended in failure.
The NS-23, which had 36 trials on board, was scheduled for the first launch in late August, but was postponed due to bad weather.
The anomaly occurred when the rocket was climbing 700 mph (1,126 kph) at an altitude of about 28,000 feet (8,500 meters). The missile appeared to have stalled because it encountered a technical problem.
The capsule then began its escape sequence and overtook the booster, which was engulfed in bright yellow flames.
The accident represents a setback for both Blue Origin and the fledgling space tourism industry.
– ‘Escape system works fine’ –
But billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isakman, who chartered a private space mission with SpaceX last year, tweeted, “The launch escape system appears to be working fine.”
“With so many launches, and so many vehicles, engines and boosters in development across the industry, it shouldn’t be surprising to see such events,” Isaacman added.
Blue Origin began taking humans into space for 10 minutes there and return flights last year for an unspecified ticket price.
In all, it transferred 32 people – some as paying customers and others as guests. Notable passengers include company founder Bezos and Star Trek icon William Shatner.
Passengers experience weightlessness for a few minutes and notice the curve of the Earth before the capsule re-enters the atmosphere and floats down for a gentle landing in the desert.
Other companies offering tour experiences include Virgin Galactic, which has not flown since it carried founder Richard Branson to the edge of space in July 2021.
While Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin offer short trips into the universe, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is working with another company called Axiom Space to bring longer missions to the International Space Station.