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Blue Origin Prepares for New Shepard’s Return to the Skies

After a hiatus of about fifteen months, Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is gearing up for the comeback of its New Shepard reusable rocket. The spacecraft is poised for its first flight since September of last year, marking a significant step forward following a temporary suspension of New Shepard suborbital flights.

Blue Origin announced on Tuesday its ambitious goal of launching the New Shepard rocket within a launch window opening on December 18 for the upcoming payload mission. This initiative comes in the wake of a setback on September 12, 2022, where the NS-23 mission experienced a failure, prompting a thorough investigation by the company.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concluded the investigation a few months ago, attributing the mishap to the structural failure of an engine nozzle caused by higher-than-expected engine operating temperatures. The FAA mandated 21 corrective actions for Blue Origin, including a redesign of engine and nozzle components to enhance structural performance during operation and organizational changes.

The upcoming NS-24 mission aims to carry 33 science and research payloads along with 38,000 postcards to space from the Club for the Future. This organization, linked to Blue Origin, is dedicated to inspiring future generations to pursue careers in STEM and contribute to the future of life in space. The postcards, each adorned with a “Flown to Space” stamp, will be returned to their authors after a journey on the New Shepard flight.

The NS-24 mission represents a pivotal moment for Blue Origin, bringing the total number of New Shepard flights to 24. Notably, six of these missions have included human passengers on suborbital trips, underscoring Blue Origin’s commitment to advancing space tourism.

The New Shepard rocket, named in honor of legendary U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard, can accommodate six crew members and boasts an 11-minute flight duration for its typical journeys. Blue Origin, established in 2000, is not only engaged in suborbital spaceflight but is also actively working with NASA. In May, the company secured a contract to develop a lunar lander, highlighting its multifaceted contributions to the space exploration landscape.

As Blue Origin prepares for the NS-24 mission, the aerospace industry and space enthusiasts alike eagerly anticipate the return of the New Shepard rocket, emphasizing the resilience and commitment of the company to push the boundaries of space exploration.

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