"We will get to the bottom of it."
All's not well at Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, where the company's flagship space tourism capsule has been grounded for six months after its escape hatch fired in error.
As SpaceNews reports, the head of the New Shepard rocket program — yes, the same one that blasted William Shatner to the edge of space— admitted last week that Blue Origin has spent the last six months investigating a September 2022 "anomaly" in which a crewless launch fired its escape motor and parachute about a minute after launch.
"We are investigating that anomaly now, the cause of it," Gary Lai, the chief architect of the rocket, said after a New Shepard discussion at during the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado. "We will get to the bottom of it."
"I can’t talk about specific timelines or plans for when we will resolve that situation," he added, "other than to say that we fully intend to be back in business as soon as we are ready."
Back on September 12, the New Shepard crew rocket launch — which had experiments aboard, but thankfully no people — was forced to abort when it experienced a surprise "booster error" just a minute into a flight that was slated to go up to 60 miles into the sky. As Space.com notes, the rocket's first-stage booster, which was meant to be reusable, was lost in the incident.
In both the company's initial announcement of the anomaly and in Lai's more recent comments, Blue Origin emphasized that the apparent malfunction did iterate that the escape mechanisms worked the way they were supposed to.
"I can tell you with certainty that the acceleration environment that we experienced was exactly what we predicted," the chief New Shepard architect said. "It was exactly as the astronauts were trained for."
"Everything went according to plan," Lai added, which seemed a bit euphemistic all things considered.
Looking forward, Lai said that Blue Origin expects that "suborbital tourism will dominate" its flights within the coming year, which again seems mighty optimistic given that its tourism crew capsule is still grounded.
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