Bezos’ Blue Origin aiming to make long-awaited return to launch next week

Blue Origin is aiming to finally conclude a more than 15-month pause in operations of its New Shepard suborbital rocket, with the company announcing today that it will fly an uncrewed mission as early as December 18.

The company confirmed the launch on its social media account following a Bloomberg report of an internal email on the new targeted date. The mission, called NS-24, will carry 33 science and research payloads and other cargo.

New Shepard has been grounded since September 2022, when an issue with an engine nozzle triggered an auto-abort, which released the uncrewed capsule from the booster. The capsule landed safely; the booster was destroyed when it crashed back to Earth. (That mission was also uncrewed.)

The Federal Aviation Administration formally concluded its investigation into the mishap in September, instructing Blue Origin to implement 21 corrective actions, including redesigning the engine and nozzle components as well as “organizational changes.”

This new launch date means that Blue Origin has implemented all the actions and received its modified launch license from the FAA. According to the regulator’s website, the modified license will expire in August 2025 and is limited to launches from Blue Origin’s West Texas facilities only.

While Blue Origin has many ambitious projects under development — including a heavy-lift rocket called New Glenn, which the company aims to fly late next year, and a lunar lander called Blue Moon, which has solicited a $3.4 billion contract from NASA — the New Shepard flight program is the only program that is currently operational. To date, the vehicle has flown more than 22 times, and has taken 31 people to the edge of space and back (including CEO Jeff Bezos himself).

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