blue origin aims to finally end the more than 15-month grounding of its New Shepard suborbital rocket, with the company today announcing it will fly unmanned missions as early as Dec. 18.
The company confirmed its release social media accounts Followed by Bloomberg reporting Content of internal email for new target date. The mission, called NS-24, will carry 33 scientific research payloads and other cargo.
The new Shepard has been grounded since September 2022, when an engine nozzle problem triggered an automatic shutdown and released the unmanned capsule from its booster. The capsule landed safely. The booster was destroyed upon crashing to Earth. (This mission was also unmanned.)
The Federal Aviation Administration formally closed its investigation into the crash in September and directed Blue Origin to take 21 corrective actions, including redesigning engine and nozzle components and “organizational changes.”
This new launch date means Blue Origin has implemented all measures and received a revised launch license from the FAA. The amended license expires in August 2025 and is limited to launches only from Blue Origin’s West Texas facility, according to the regulator’s website.
Blue Origin has ambitious projects in development, including a heavy-lift rocket called New Glenn, which aims to take flight late next year, and a lunar lander called Blue Moon, for which it is seeking a $3.4 billion contract from NASA. The Shepard Flight Program is the only one currently in operation. To date, the vehicle has flown over his 22 flights, taking 31 people (including CEO Jeff Bezos himself) to the edge of space and back.