If at first you don’t succeed, fly, fly again.
That seems to be the motto for Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, which announced that it would resume flying to space soon after more than a year of being grounded, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. The company said it could begin flights as early as Monday, after its New Shepard rocket experienced engine failure back in September 2022.
“We’re targeting a launch window that opens on December 18 for our next New Shepard payload mission,” Blue Origin wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “#NS24 will carry 33 science and research payloads as well as 38,000 @clubforfuture postcards to space. #FortheBenefitofEarth.”
While the next flight won’t carry any humans, if all goes well, future journeys could include passengers. New Shepard’s first flight with people, which occurred in 2021, included Bezos among that group. Since then, the rocket has flown five other crewed missions, including one with the actor William Shatner and another with the TV personality Michael Strahan, the Post noted.
Toward the end of last year, however, New Shepard suffered a failure just a minute after it took off from a Blue Origin facility in West Texas. Flames could be seen coming from its single BE-3 engine, The Washington Post said, and an emergency abort system was activated. The rocket and the 36 payloads it had on board landed safely under parachutes, but the rocket booster crashed and was unable to be reused.
Blue Origin investigated the incident with oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration. In March, it released a statement saying that it had figured out what had caused the failure: An engine nozzle had experienced “temperatures that exceeded the expected and analysed values of the nozzle material.” Back then, the space tourism company said that it was working on changes to the design and that it would start flying again “soon.”
Along with New Shepard, Blue Origin is also working on the larger, more powerful New Glenn rocket. Once completed, that rocket would ideally be able to reach orbit and compete for government and commercial contracts. Development of New Glenn has been delayed over and over again, though, the Post noted, and Amazon (also owned by Bezos, and intending to use Blue Origin) has had to work with Elon Musk’s SpaceX instead.
In the battle for space dominance, Blue Origin seems to have some catching up to do.