Is Blue Origin Ready to Launch After Last Year’s Rocket Explosion?





A year after Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket explosion in West Texas, the company appears ready for its next launch test next month.

Blue Origin is readying the New Shepard launch system and has “tentative” plans to test a crewless flight in early October, according to Ars Technica. A successful launch might put the company on track for a possible crewed mission in February, its first since 2022.

Blue Origin worked with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and NASA to investigate what went wrong. In March, they revealed New Shepard’s BE-3 rocket engine ran hotter than it was designed to handle, which caused “structural fatigue,” leading to thermal damage to the engine’s nozzle.

Blue Origin changed the engine’s boundary layer cooling system, combustion chamber, and operating parameters to protect the nozzle from overheating in future launches. Engineers are also adjusting to Booster 4, which is only used for passenger missions.

“Blue Origin expects to return to flight soon, with a re-flight of the NS-23 payloads,” the company said in an incident summary.

The company has yet to release official word of upcoming launches and was not immediately available for comment. Which rocket Blue Origin will use still needs to be determined, as Boosters 1 through 3 are out of commission.

The private space race is heating up faster than an engine nozzle. Getting Blue Origin up and launching again is critical to keeping pace with competitors like Virgin Galactic, which completed eight human spaceflights, and SpaceX. Blue Origin has sent 30 people to space during six crewed flights and 21 successful launches compared to SpaceX’s 164, including 7 missions to bring crewmembers to the ISS.

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