Jeff Bezos’ rocket company suffered its first launch failure as the booster exploded about a minute after liftoff in Texas on Monday.
No one was aboard the Blue Origin flight, only science experiments.
The capsule’s launch abort system kicked in after the “anamoly” occurred to the rocket and lifted the craft off the top. Several minutes later, the capsule parachuted onto the remote West Texas desert floor.
Blue Origin’s launch commentary went silent when the capsule catapulted off the rocket, later announcing: “It appears we’ve experienced an anomaly with today’s flight. This wasn’t planned.”
“Booster failure on today’s uncrewed flight. Escape system performed as designed,” the company tweeted later.
The mishap occurred as the rocket was traveling nearly 700 mph at an altitude of about 28,000 feet. There was no video shown of the rocket – only the capsule – after the failure occurred. The rocket usually lands upright on the desert floor and then is recycled for future flights; clearly, that did not happen this time.
Launch commentator Erika Wagner said the capsule managed to escape successfully, with the webcast showing it reaching a maximum altitude of more than 37,000 feet. Thirty-six experiments were on board, half sponsored by NASA.
No further details were provided.
It was the 23rd flight for the New Shepard program, named after the first American in space, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard. The same kind of rocket and capsule have been used to carry paying passengers on 10-minute rides to the edge of space. It was the ninth flight for this rocket.
Its most recent passenger flight was just last month. Bezos was on the first New Shepard crew last summer. Altogether, Blue Origin has carried 31 people to the edge of space. The company’s headquarters is in Kent, Wash.