Blue Origin aims to launch first New Shepard rocket in over a year

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A Blue Origin New Shepard rocket lifts off with a crew of six, including Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of the first American in space Alan Shepard, for whom the spacecraft is named, from Launch Site One in west Texas, U.S. December 11, 2021.
Joe Skipper | Reuters

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is preparing to launch its New Shepard rocket for the first time in over a year, the company said Tuesday.

“We’re targeting a launch window that opens on Dec. 18 for our next New Shepard payload mission,” Blue Origin said in social media posts, shortly after Bloomberg reported the target date.

The New Shepard launch, titled NS-24, will be a cargo mission, carrying research and scientific payloads. The mission will mark the suborbital rocket’s return to flight, after a more than 14-month hiatus due to a mid-launch failure during a cargo mission in September 2022.

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The Federal Aviation Administration closed its investigation into the failed NS-23 mission earlier this year. The agency required Blue Origin to take corrective actions “to improve structural performance during operation as well as organizational changes” at the company.

The moment of the anomaly during the New Shepard cargo mission NS-23, in which the booster’s engine failed.
Blue Origin

The New Shepard rocket launches from Blue Origin’s private facility in West Texas, carrying people and payloads above 100 kilometers, or more than 340,000 feet, for a couple minutes of weightlessness. The capsule is flown autonomously, with no human pilot, and floats down with the assistance of a set of parachutes to land in the Texas desert. The New Shepard rocket booster is reusable, returning to land on a concrete pad near the launch site.

To date, Blue Origin has flown 31 people past the edge of space with New Shepard.

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