Texas: Jeff Bezos’ space company successfully launched a rocket carrying experiments on Tuesday, its first flight since engine trouble caused a crash more than a year ago.
The New Shepard rocket soared from West Texas, lifting a capsule full of tests, many of which were aboard the failed Blue Origin launch in September 2022. No one was aboard that flight or this latest one.
This time, the capsule made it to the fringes of space, exposing the experiments from NASA and others to a few minutes of weightlessness, before parachuting back down to the desert. The rocket landed first, after releasing the capsule. It reached an altitude of 66 miles (107 kilometers) during the 10-minute flight.
During 2022’s failed launch, the rocket started to veer off course shortly after liftoff, prompting the escape system to kick in and catapult the capsule off the top. The capsule landed safely, but the rocket came crashing down.
The problem was traced to an overheated rocket engine nozzle that broke apart. Design changes were made to the nozzles and combustion chambers.
Blue Origin has been launching from this remote area, southeast of El Paso, for almost 20 years. The company launched its first experiments for NASA in 2019 and its first passengers in 2021 that included Bezos and his brother. The second crew, a few months later, included “Star Trek” actor William Shatner.
Altogether, Blue Origin has launched six times with 31 passengers, interspersing the 10-minute flights with research hops.
“Following a thorough review of today’s mission, we look forward to flying our next crewed flight soon,” said launch commentator Erika Wagner.
Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, designed to reach orbit, has yet to fly. The company is aiming for a debut sometime next year from Cape Canaveral, Florida.