The rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will launch its sub-orbital New Shepard vehicle for the first time in 15 months on Monday, and the whole event will be live-streamed.
The uncrewed mission will carry 33 science and research payloads to the edge of space, along with 38,000 postcards for Club for the Future, Blue Origin’s initiative aimed at inspiring future generations to pursue careers related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects.
Blue Origin suspended flights in September 2022 after an uncrewed New Shepard rocket exploded in midair shortly after launch from the company’s facility in West Texas.
Before that, Blue Origin had been using the single-stage New Shepard rocket to carry high-paying tourists on flights to the edge of space, with the most recent one taking place in August 2022.
While the midair failure was clearly a setback for Blue Origin, engineers were pleased to see that the crew capsule’s emergency escape system functioned properly, propelling the capsule away from the exploding rocket before making a safe, parachute-assisted landing in the desert.
An investigation into the incident revealed that a nozzle on the New Shepard’s engine experienced a “structural fatigue failure,” causing a thrust misalignment that triggered the capsule’s emergency escape system.
As a result, several corrective steps have been taken, including redesigning the engine’s combustion chamber and adjusting some of its operating parameters.
A successful flight on Monday will pave the way for a return to tourism flights, though Blue Origin may still choose to send at least one more crewless capsule skyward before confirming any such decision.
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) December 17, 2023
Blue Origin plans to launch the New Shepard rocket from its facility in West Texas on Monday, December 18.
The lift-off is targeted for t 8:30 a.m. local time, which is 9:30 a.m. ET and 6:30 a.m. PT. The mission will be live-streamed at blueorigin.com, and the webcast will begin 20 minutes before the launch.
Viewers will get to see the rocket launch, the separation of the capsule from the rocket, the moment the capsule reaches its maximum altitude near the Kármán line (the place generally considered as where space begins), the upright landing of the New Shepard rocket, and the parachute-assisted landing of the crew capsule.
Be sure to check Blue Origin’s social media feeds for any late changes to the schedule.