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Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will return to flight tomorrow after over a year grounded

The rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ space company experienced a failure in September 2022 and hasn’t flown since.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Jeff Bezos, has finally set a date for its New Shepard rocket’s first flight in more than a year, after a failure last September left it grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The company is targeting Monday, December 18 for liftoff from its West Texas facility. The launch window opens at 9:30AM ET.

New Shepard won’t be carrying a crew for this flight, but will have science and research payloads on board, plus 38,000 student postcards stamped “Flown to Space!” from the Club for the Future program. It’ll be livestreamed on Blue Origin’s website starting 20 minutes before takeoff.

Blue Origin’s reusable suborbital rocket has completed both crewed and payload missions in its past, including a flight with Bezos on board in 2021 that kicked off its entry into human spaceflight. Six of its 24 flights have had humans on board its crew capsule. On September 12, 2022, an uncrewed New Shepard experienced a failure after takeoff and crashed back to the ground. Before doing so, though, it was able to abort the capsule, which separated and made a safe parachute landing.

The FAA conducted an investigation into the incident and gave Blue Origin 21 corrective actions to complete before it could fly again. The cause of the issue was found to be the failure of an engine nozzle that overheated. The FAA closed its investigation at the end of September this year.