Blue Origins NS-23 unmanned flight ended abruptly Saturday morning after the space company aborted the mission due to a problem with the New Shepard rocket’s booster. The failure happened just as the rocket reached MaxQ, or when it reached maximum dynamic pressure.
Blue Origin confirmed that the rocket had suffered a booster failure on Twitter, but notes that the “escape system performed as designed”. In a later update, Blue Origin adds that the “booster hit the ground” and that there were “no reported injuries”.
The rocket took off from Blue Origin’s West Texas location around 10:26 a.m. ET, with the capsule carrying 36 payloads of scientific research equipment. Short in flight (around 1:21:49 in the live stream), you can see the moment Blue Origin activates the escape system.
“Looks like we experienced an anomaly with today’s flight,” the commentator said during the livestream. “This was not planned and we don’t have any details yet. But our crew pod managed to escape successfully, we will monitor progress until landing. As you can see the drogues have been deployed and will be the next time the mains is pulled.”
In the process, the capsule remains intact and deploys parachutes before beginning its journey back to Earth. As noted by Ars Technica senior space editor Eric Bergerif there were people on board, “they would have felt a severe shock”, but would probably have “been safe”.
Blue Origin is the space company founded by Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos that recently took a group of people to the edge of space in June, marking its fifth manned mission.
Update Sept 12, 11:47 AM ET: Updated to add Blue Origin’s confirmation of a booster error.
Update Sept 12, 3:12 PM ET: Updated to add another update to Blue Origin.