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Blue Origin Reports Engine Nozzle Issue Led to September New Shepard Explosion 

By Rachel Jewett | March 27, 2023

      A screengrab of the crew capsule ejecting during Blue Origin’s Sept. 2022 New Shepard launch. Photo: Blue Origin via YouTube

      Blue Origin reports that an engine nozzle issue led to the New Shepard rocket explosion during a test flight in September 2022. The New Shepard is the suborbital rocket that launches Blue Origin’s crew capsule, the same rocket that sent Jeff Bezos to the edge of space in July 2021

      A New Shepard rocket exploded during a test flight in September, but the crew capsule was safely ejected as designed and landed safely. 

      Blue Origin released findings from its investigation into the failure on March 24, reporting there was a “structural fatigue failure” of the BE-3PM engine nozzle during powered flight. Testing showed there was thermal damage to the nozzle, which was operating at a higher temperature than expected. The launcher said there were design changes made to the engine’s boundary layer cooling system that accounted for the increase in nozzle heating. 

      Blue Origin said it is making design changes to the combustion chamber and operating parameters and improving the nozzle performance under thermal and dynamic loads. 

      Blue Origin said it expects to return to flight “soon,” but did not specify a timetable. 

      Ariane Cornell, vice president of Commercial Orbital, Astronaut, and International Sales for Blue Origin addressed the failure during a panel appearance at SATELLITE 2023. “We’ve always had safety as our number one priority. We’ll certainly fly that vehicle when we’re ready,” Cornell said earlier this month.