New Shepard Investigation Closed By Regulators Following Mishap


The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed its investigation into the September 2022 mishap during a launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle. The regulatory body has determined that Blue Origin must implement 21 corrective actions before it can resume New Shepard flights.

Key Takeaway

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has closed its investigation into Blue Origin’s New Shepard mishap. Blue Origin must implement 21 corrective actions before resuming flights, which will require a launch license modification from the FAA. The mishap, caused by a structural failure of an engine nozzle, resulted in no injuries to personnel. The timeline for the next New Shepard flight remains uncertain.

Grounding of New Shepard

Last year, after a minute of liftoff, the New Shepard launch experienced an abort and the vehicle’s capsule had to conduct an emergency parachute landing. Fortunately, the incident did not cause any harm to the Blue Origin personnel, as there were no individuals on board. However, the propulsion module did sustain damage upon impact with the ground.

Anomaly Caused by High Operating Temperatures

In a statement provided via email, an FAA representative explained that the mishap was a result of a “structural failure of an engine nozzle caused by higher than expected engine operating temperatures.” To prevent future incidents, Blue Origin must undertake various corrective measures, including redesigning the engine and nozzle components and making organizational changes.

Despite inquiries, a spokesperson from Blue Origin simply responded, “We’ve received the FAA’s letter and plan to fly soon.”

Implementation of Corrective Actions Required

While the conclusion of the investigation marks a significant step, Blue Origin cannot immediately resume New Shepard flights. The company must first implement all 21 corrective actions and obtain a launch license modification from the FAA, as explained by an FAA spokesperson.

Mishap investigations are conducted by the companies involved, but they are overseen and regulated by the FAA. The agency is responsible for issuing commercial space licenses and ensuring the safety of the public during commercial launch activities.

Next Flight Uncertain

Blue Origin previously expressed its expectation of flying “soon,” following the release of a report on the mishap in March. However, considering that six months have passed since the report, it remains unclear when New Shepard will be ready for its next flight.

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