Blue Origin's New Shepard launch experienced an unknown issue Monday morning in West Texas, causing the automatic abort system to shoot the spacecraft capsule carrying science payloads away from the rocket.
New Shepard launched at about 9:26 a.m. Central time from the company's Van Horn, Texas, launch complex. Two prior launch attempts were scrubbed due to the weather.
About 1 minute into the flight, a bright orange flame shot out of the New Shepard booster, and the spacecraft capsule was seen moving quickly away from the booster.
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Moments later, the drogue parachutes and main characters deployed and slowed the capsule down for landing.
Blue Origin later confirmed the booster failed during Monday's launch attempt.
"Booster failure on today’s uncrewed flight," Blue Origin tweeted. "Escape system performed as designed."
No humans were on board this flight, but 36 science payloads from researchers around the world were inside the capsule, including 18 funded by NASA. Two-dozen payloads were from K-12 schools, universities and STEM-focused organizations.
The New Shepard 23 mission marked the 23rd flight of the reusable rocket. This marked the ninth flight for this New Shepard booster.
The Federal Aviation Administration oversees commercial space operation safety and will investigate the launch mishap. Before New Shepard can return to launching science missions or human customers the FAA will determine if "any system, process or procedure related to the mishap affected public safety."
"The anomaly that occurred triggered the capsule escape system. The capsule landed safely and the booster impacted within the designated hazard area," the FAA said in a statement. "No injuries or public property damage have been reported."
Rockets like New Shepard that do carry humans to suborbital space are equipped with launch abort systems that are automatically triggered if the computer finds something wrong during the launch. This was the first time New Shepard's emergency abort system has been used during a mission.
While no humans were onboard Monday's booster failure, Blue Origin has launched 31 humans to suborbital space on the same capsule and booster system.
The company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos offers 10-minute spaceflights for space tourists to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and provide a low-gravity environment for science payload data.