Blue Origin says it is ready to launch tourist flights into space

After an engine failure on its New Shepard rocket in more than a year during an unmanned flight, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin said Tuesday that it would resume flying early next week.

The company said it will conduct a sub-orbital test flight to the edge of space without crew as early as Monday. The company said it can resume flights with passengers after that. The company said the flight will carry 33 scientific payloads next week In a post on X. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

In September 2022, the rocket failed one minute after takeoff from the company’s private facility in West Texas. Bright flames erupted from the vehicle’s single BE-3 engine, and its emergency abort system kicked in, ejecting the capsule.

The spacecraft is designed to carry six people to an altitude of more than 60 miles, where they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and view Earth from above the atmosphere.

In March, Blue Origin said in a statement that it addressed the problem of its failure last year, saying that one engine nozzle experienced “temperatures that exceeded the expected and analyzed values ​​of the nozzle material.”

At the time the company said it was making design changes and would return to the aircraft “soon”. An investigation into the crash was led by Blue Origin and overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The capsule and the 36 payloads it was carrying were able to land safely under parachutes and fly back, Blue Origin said. The rocket booster, under normal circumstances, falls back to Earth, gently touches down on the landing pad, and is reusable, crashing and a total loss. The company was able to recover all debris from the rocket within the designated danger zone.

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Bezos flew New Shepard’s first flight with people in 2021. The vehicle has been on five trips, including one with Star Trek actor William Shatner and television commentator Michael Strahan.

While Blue Origin has landed, Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture founded by Richard Branson, routinely flies passengers to the edge of space and back.

Blue Origin continues to work on its largest and most powerful rocket, the New Glenn, which the company hopes will be capable of reaching orbit and allow Blue Origin to compete for government and commercial business. Amazon already has contracts to launch satellites it wants to use in its Kuiper systems, which will transmit Internet to ground stations. (Bezos also founded Amazon; Patty Stonecipher, the Post’s interim CEO, sits on Amazon’s board.)

However, New Glenn’s development has been repeatedly delayed. Recently, Amazon, which is facing a deadline to get most of its satellite fleet into orbit, announced the purchase of three launch vehicles from Blue Origin’s rival, SpaceX.

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