It is a blow for the company and for the space tourism sector, which is subject to fierce competition, even if observers note that possible passengers would have probably survived the accident, the first of its kind for Blue Origin.
A video released by the company shows, about a minute after takeoff, the capsule activating its emergency engines and ejecting from the main launcher. We then see his hard landing, despite the deployment of parachutes.
The video does not show what happened to the launcher, the company writing that he “fell to the ground”, while if successful he must return to stand up, gently.
“Launcher malfunction during unmanned flight today,” the company first announced, adding that the capsule ejection system had worked as expected.
“There were no injuries,” Blue Origin said. The capsule, unmanned, carried only research equipment for this mission entitled “New Shepard 23”.
The American civil aviation regulator, the FAA, has announced that it has blocked any further take-off of this rocket while the investigation is ongoing.
“The capsule landed safely and the launcher touched down in the hazard zone,” the agency wrote.
It was the 23rd mission for the company, the first to end in failure.
But billionaire Jared Isaacman, at the head of space missions organized with competitor SpaceX, points out that “the take-off safety system worked well.”
“With so many launches, (rockets), engines and launchers in development in the sector, such an event should not come as a surprise,” he said.
Long reserved for the States, the space race has in recent years opened up to several private companies competing in the United States, in addition to Blue Origin: SpaceX, led by Elon Musk and which works with NASA, and Virgin Galactic , Blue Origin’s main competitor in the suborbital flight sector but has been shut down since its founder Richard Branson’s flight in July 2021.
Blue Origin has sent 32 people into space since July 2021, when its boss Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, took part in the first flight. Space tourists, who pay a ticket at an unknown price, benefit from ten minutes in weightlessness before coming to land in the middle of the desert.
Among them, the actor playing the iconic Captain Kirk of the Star Trek series, William Shatner, and, in early August 2022, the first Egyptian and the first Portuguese ever sent into space.