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Uncrewed Blue Origin rocket encounters anomaly during flight, capsule escapes

Screen grab from Blue Origin's NS-23 flight, right before the capsule's inflight abort system pushed the vehicle away from the booster. Photo: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin is investigating an anomaly of its New Shepard spacecraft after launching Monday from west Texas. There were no people on board.

About a minute after launch, the rocket wobbled as it was passing through max-Q — which is when the rocket faces the maximum stress during launch. That was when the capsule’s abort motors fired, pushing it away from the rocket booster while some 28,000 feet above its launch site in Van Horn, Texas.

A Blue Origin launch commentator said the mission experienced an anomaly and the crew capsule was able to escape successfully, touching down beneath three parachutes in Van Horn, Texas.

While the New Shepard capsule is designed to carry people, there were no passengers on board this time. It was the 9th flight of this booster.

The mission instead was carrying a slew of science experiments to the edge of space, taking advantage of the few moments of weightlessness the capsule experiences, including an experiment from a UCF researcher.

Blue Origin said the capsule’s escape system functioned as designed and the company continues to look into the issue.

“The booster impacted the ground,” said the company in a Tweet. “There are no reported injuries; all personnel have been accounted for.”

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »