Congress wants transparency in FAA investigation into Blue Origin launch failure

The failure of a Blue Origin rocket during an uncrewed launch this month led members of Congress to call for more transparency into the FAA’s investigation into the accident.

One of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rockets was destroyed in a launch failure on Sept. 12 while carrying an uncrewed capsule on science flight NS-23 from the company’s West Texas spaceport. The abort system separated the capsule from the doomed booster as intended, allowing it to parachute back to Earth. Blue Origin has not released any details about the cause of the crash, nor has the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is investigating the crash.

On September 15, the leaders of the US Congressional Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics released a letter. (will open in a new tab) urging the FAA to be more transparent as Blue Origin also uses its New Shepard rockets to launch passengers on suborbital travel.

Related: Blue Origin’s New Shepard failure is a reminder that spaceflight is hard

“We are pleased that there were no people on board the New Shepard 23 (NS-23) mission and that the abort system worked as intended. Just over a month ago, however, the New Shepard spacecraft carried out Blue Origin’s sixth commercial suborbital spaceflight. in just over a year,” said the letter, written by subcommittee chair Don Beyer (D-VA) and senior member Brian Babin (R-TX). (will open in a new tab). “On another day with another mission, the anomaly of this vehicle could have endangered human lives.”

During the September 12 launch, Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard lifted off at 10:27 AM EST (1427 GMT) to carry 36 science payloads, including 18 NASA-funded payloads, to and from suborbital space. But something went wrong 1 minute and 5 seconds into the flight as the rocket approached 30,000 feet (9,000 meters). An anomaly on the New Shepard rocket triggered the emergency stop system, ejecting the payload capsule from the launch vehicle before it was destroyed.

“During today’s flight, the capsule rescue system successfully separated the capsule from the launch vehicle. The launch vehicle collided with the ground. There are no reports of injuries, all personnel are registered, ”Blue Origin wrote in a Twitter update. (will open in a new tab) after failure. Since then, few, if any, details have been made public.

In their letter, Beyer and Babin said that they and other members of the subcommittee are serious about their role of overseeing commercial spaceflight.

“To this end, we are asking the Associate Administrator of the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Office to brief members of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on the plans and schedule for investigating the NS-23 anomaly, the root cause of the failure. have been identified and are planning to ensure that action is taken to address the root cause or causes,” they wrote. They also called for a briefing for the subcommittee within 10 days of receiving the letter, ie 25 September.

The failed NS-23 New Shepard launch was Blue Origin’s 23rd mission and the second flight anomaly since the flight began in 2015. The first anomaly occurred in 2015 when a New Shepard booster crashed instead of landing, but its uncrewed capsule successfully reached suborbital space and returned safely.

Blue Origin has not encountered any anomalies during crewed flights. Since 2021, the company has launched six passenger flights, the last of which took place in August. four.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@ or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

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