Blue Origin Revealed To Launch New Shepard Suborbital Vehicle In Over A Year

Blue Origin has revealed its intentions to launch the New Shepard Suborbital vehicle, marking its return to flight after a mishap over 15 months ago. According to a social media announcement on December 12, Blue Origin plans to conduct the launch from its West Texas test site by December 18. The uncrewed flight will carry 33 experiments and an impressive 38,000 postcards from Club for the Future, an educational non-profit associated with the company.

The upcoming New Shepard mission, known as NS-24, will mark the first flight of the spacecraft since the unfortunate event that occurred during NS-23 in September 2022. During the previous uncrewed flight, the crew capsule’s abort motor was activated due to an issue with the vehicle’s main engine approximately one minute after takeoff. Fortunately, the capsule landed safely, but the propulsion module did not fare as well and crashed.

In March, Blue Origin announced the completion of its investigation into the mishap and determined that the structural failure of the nozzle in the BE-3 PM engine of the propulsion module was the cause. This failure was attributed to thermal damage resulting from operating temperatures exceeding design limits. The company has not provided further details regarding the significant delay in resuming New Shepard flights. Speculation arose suggesting a potential shift in priorities for the company.

To allocate resources towards other important company objectives, Blue Origin has decided to prioritize projects other than New Shepard. Since the vehicle’s most recent flight in September 2022, the company has secured a NASA contract to develop a specialized version of its Blue Moon Lunar lander for the Human Landing System program. Furthermore, Blue Origin has unveiled a new orbital transfer vehicle named Blue Ring. It has been actively working on the development of the New Glenn orbital launch vehicle and the Orbital Reef commercial space station projects.

While New Shepard launches were on hold, Virgin Galactic made significant progress in its commercial spaceflight operations. The company successfully initiated commercial service with its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, VSS Unity, completing six flights within less than six months. Out of these flights, five were commercial missions, showcasing the company’s commitment to the emerging space tourism industry.


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