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Blue Origin to resume crewed New Shepard launches on May 19

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will take a crew to suborbital space for the first time in nearly two years later this month, the company announced on Tuesday. 

The NS-25 mission will launch from Blue’s launch site in West Texas on May 19. The launch window opens at 8:30 a.m. The six-person crew includes Ed Dwight, the first Black astronaut candidate (but for whom this would be the first visit to space), along with investor Mason Angel, who founded the space- and defense-focused Industrious Ventures. 

This launch comes after a nearly two-year interlude following the NS-22 mission in August 2022. The long pause in launches came after a cargo-only mission a month after NS-22 experienced an anomaly, which triggered the capsule’s abort system around a minute after lift-off. While the capsule parachuted to safety, the booster was lost. 

After such mishaps, it’s common practice for the Federal Aviation Administration to open an investigation. (These investigations are merely overseen by the FAA, but conducted by the company.) In March 2023, Blue Origin said the anomaly was due to the rocket’s BE-3PM engine running hotter than anticipated; that led to catastrophic thermal damage to the engine nozzle. 

However, it took the FAA another six months to formally close the investigation. The FAA further said that it and Blue Origin had identified 21 corrective actions to be implemented prior to New Shepard’s next mission. That mission finally took place in December 2023, when New Shepard successfully carried 33 payloads to suborbital space. By industry standards, it was a relatively long delay, and Blue Origin has never elaborated on the cause.

New Shepard is the Jeff Bezos-backed company’s only operational rocket. As the mission name suggests, it has flown 24 times since 2015, with the 25th being the seventh with humans on board. Blue Origin is also developing a heavy-lift rocket called New Glenn, a lunar lander called Blue Moon (a version of which is under a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA) and a maneuverable spacecraft called Blue Ring. 

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