Blue Origin rocket crashes after launch in Florida

The rocket crashed to Earth shortly after launch on Monday in an accident on the Jeff Bezos space company’s first launch, but the experiment capsule managed to parachute to safety.

No one was on board the Blue Origin plane, which used the same type of rocket that sends paying customers to the edge of space. Missile launches have now been halted pending an investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Within a minute of a New Shepard rocket flying out of West Texas, bright yellow flames erupted around the single engine below. The capsule launch abort system immediately went off, lifting the ship off the top. A few minutes later, the capsule parachuted to the bottom of a remote desert.

The rocket crashed and no injuries or damage were reported, the FAA, which is in charge of public safety during commercial space launches and landings, said.

Blue Origin’s commentary on the launch fell silent as the capsule ejected from the rocket on Monday morning, eventually declaring, “Looks like we encountered an anomaly on today’s flight. It wasn’t planned.”

“Failure of the launch vehicle during today’s unmanned flight. The evacuation system worked as intended,” the Kent, Washington-based company tweeted nearly an hour later.

The company later said the rocket had crashed.

The accident occurred while the rocket was moving at almost 700 miles per hour (1,126 km/h) at an altitude of about 28,000 feet (8,500 meters). Video of the rocket was not shown – only the capsule – after the accident. This happened around the point at which the rocket is under maximum pressure, called max-q.

The rocket usually lands vertically on the desert floor and is then recycled for future flights.

The webcast showed the capsule reaching a maximum altitude of over 37,000 feet (11,300 meters). There were 36 experiments on board, which were in zero gravity for several minutes. Half were sponsored by NASA, mostly from students.

It was the 23rd flight of the New Shepard program, named after the first American in space, Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard. This was the ninth flight of this particular pair of rocket-capsule dedicated to flight experiments.

Blue Origin’s last flight with paying customers was just last month; ticket price was not disclosed. Bezos was on the New Shepard first team last year. In total, Blue Origin carried 31 people on 10-minute flights, including actor William Shatner.

The rocket was supposed to take off almost two weeks ago but was put on hold until Monday due to bad weather.

(The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. AP is solely responsible for all content.)

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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