Blue Origin launched its 23rd New Shepard rocket mission this morning, carrying scientific payloads intended for experimentation. However, the mission had to be premature after it was aborted during the first stage of the rocket’s ascent, causing the abort process to take over and release the capsule’s parachutes, which drifted back to Earth shortly after liftoff.
It wasn’t a crewed mission, so no one was aboard the capsule, even though it’s the same vehicle the company uses for its private tourist missions into space. This is the first time Blue Origin has encountered a problem with the New Shepard spacecraft in flight, in nearly two dozen missions.
So far, all Blue Origin has said is that an anomaly was detected that caused the process to be interrupted. The company has not yet released any details, but the problem occurred during the “Max Q” phase of the launch, which is the point where the rocket is under the most stress due to atmospheric pressure and friction.
We’ll be looking for updates (Blue Origin says they’re on the way), but the mission provides a unique test of Blue Origin’s active escape system, which was responsible for the capsule’s separation and apparently safe landing after the anomaly occurred.