Blue Origin NS-23 failed because of overheated rocket engine nozzles
The moment of the anomaly during the New Shepard cargo mission NS-23 where the booster motor failed.
Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has released the results of an investigation into the failed flight of a cargo mission last year, which it said was due to a problem in the rocket’s engine nozzle.
The company’s New Shepard rocket, which was flying the NS-23 mission with science and research payloads, suffered a failure in September 2022. There were no people on board, and according to Blue Origin, its capsule’s emergency exit system was working properly, but the rocket’s reusable booster was destroyed.
Bezos’ company had previously said little about its investigation over the past six months, which was conducted under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a blog post on Friday, Blue Origin said it had identified “an engine nozzle thermostructural failure” as the direct cause of the problem and is now modifying the engine, including design changes, to accommodate higher-than-expected temperatures during flight.
“Blue Origin anticipates returning to flight with a re-flight of the NS-23 payloads soon,” the company said.
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Launching from Blue Origin’s private facility in West Texas, the New Shepard rocket will carry people and payloads 100 kilometers — or more than 340,000 feet — for a few minutes of zero gravity. The capsule will be flown autonomously, without a human pilot, and will descend using a set of parachutes to land in the Texas desert. The New Shepard Rocket Engine is reusable and lands on a concrete slab near the launch pad.
Blue Origin said its investigation found the NS-23 flight’s engine failure was due to “operating temperatures that exceeded the expected and analyzed values of the nozzle material.” The company recovered fragments of the BE-3PM engine nozzle and found “clear evidence of thermal damage and hot streaks resulting from elevated operating temperatures.”
The company noted that its design changes are aimed at improving the engine’s performance at high temperatures and strengthening the engine’s nozzle.