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Blue Origin to resume New Shepard crewed launches on May 19

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will take a crew into suborbital space for the first time in nearly two years later this month, the company announced Tuesday.

The NS-25 mission will launch from the Blue Launch Site in West Texas on May 19. The launch window opens at 8:30 a.m. The six-person crew includes Ed Dwight, the first black astronaut candidate (but for whom this would be the first visit to space), as well as investor Mason Angel, who founded space-focused Industrious Ventures and defense.

This launch comes after a nearly two-year interlude following the NS-22 mission in August 2022. The long pause in launches came after a cargo mission only a month after NS-22 experienced an anomaly, which triggered the capsule abandonment system approximately one minute. after takeoff. While the capsule was parachuted to safety, the booster was lost.

After such incidents, it is common for the Federal Aviation Administration to open an investigation. (These investigations are simply overseen by the FAA, but conducted by the company.) In March 2023, Blue Origin said the anomaly was caused by the rocket’s BE-3PM engine running hotter than expected; this resulted in catastrophic thermal damage to the engine nozzle.

However, it took another six months for the FAA to officially close the investigation. The FAA further said that it and Blue Origin have identified 21 corrective actions to be implemented before New Shepard’s next mission. This mission finally took place in December 2023, when New Shepard successfully transported 33 payloads to suborbital space. By industry standards, this was a relatively long delay and Blue Origin never explained the cause.

New Shepard is the only operational rocket from the Jeff Bezos-backed company. As the mission’s name suggests, it has completed 24 flights since 2015, with the 25th being the 7th with humans on board. Blue Origin is also developing a heavy-lift rocket called New Glenn, a lunar lander called Blue Moon (a version of which has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA), and a maneuverable spacecraft called Blue Ring.


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