Blue Origin on Tuesday successfully launched its first rocket in more than 15 months after an in-flight failure grounded the program.
The New Shepard rocket, flying under the mission designation NS-24 (the 24th mission), was unmanned but featured 33 scientific payloads. The launch, which was originally scheduled for Monday, but was delayed due to a “ground system issue,” comes more than a year after its last rocket exploded a minute after liftoff. The accident forced the company, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to ground the program until now.
The launch is a big win for Blue Origin, which saw its momentum halted after the accident, and is working on resume manned flights at some point. It’s also a good sign for Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which had contracted with Blue Origin to help deliver some of its satellites starting next year. Blue Origin will serve a key role in getting enough low-earth orbit satellites in space to begin deploying internet service. Amazon said it just successfully completed its first tests from its initial satellites.
The next step will be for Blue Origin to resume launching flights with humans, although the company hasn’t said when that would happen. Prior passengers for the space commercial flight program include Star Trek icon William Shatner, Good Morning America co-anchor and former NBA star Jason Strahan, and, of course, Bezos himself.
Space.com notes that Blue Origin’s main competitor in space tourism, Virgin Galactic, has flown several missions since Blue Origin was grounded. But Richard Branson’s space venture will also pause for a few months to upgrade its fleet..
Blue Origin said that beyond the scientific payloads, the flight also carried 38,000 postcards for Club for the Future, a non-profit group started by Blue Origin to get young people interest in space exploration.
Image credit: Blue Origin