Blue Origin now has an explanation for the booster failure that cut short a New Shepard flight last September. Jeff Bezos’ company has determined that a “thermo-structural failure” in the engine nozzle of the NS-23 rocket was to blame. Nozzle operating temperatures soared higher than expected following design changes to the cooling system, creating fatigue that misaligned thrust and activated the crew capsule’s exhaust system.
Engineers are already taking “corrective actions” that include redesigning the combustion chamber and operating conditions. Blue Origin also tweaked the nozzle design to improve its structural integrity. The capsule was undamaged and will fly again, according to Blue Origin.
The company says it hopes to resume flights “soon”, but did not provide an exact date. He intends to restart operations by flying the research payload from the aborted mission again. The Federal Aviation Administration must accept the findings of the incident before Blue Origin can move forward.
There is a lot of pressure on Blue Origin to fix the issues. The company recently won a contract with NASA to carry out a scientific mission to Mars using its yet to be launched New Glenn rocket, and lobbied for a lunar lander deal. The sooner Blue Origin can prove its rocket is trustworthy, the sooner it can secure customers that include governments and space tourists.
The rivals face their own problems. Relativity Space’s first 3D printed rocket failed to reach orbit earlier this month. SpaceX, meanwhile, hasn’t been able to shoot yet all Starship engines at the same time. This does not include past issues like The setbacks of Rocket Lab. Private spaceflight remains difficult, and Blue Origin is just the latest to illustrate this fact.