(Bloomberg) -- The US Federal Aviation Administration says it has closed a mishap investigation into the botched flight of Blue Origin LLC’s New Shepard rocket, which suffered a mid-flight failure in September of 2022.
The FAA says the problem was due to a structural failure of a nozzle in the New Shepard’s BE-3 engine, which caused the engine to overheat – something Blue Origin disclosed in March. Blue Origin must implement 21 “corrective actions” designed to prevent a similar problem from occurring on future flights, the FAA said.
The closure of the mishap probe comes two days after Blue Origin, the closely held spaceflight company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, said it was replacing its chief executive officer with veteran Amazon.com Inc. executive Dave Limp.
The company is working to resume New Shepard flights before the end of the year, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday, citing three people familiar with its plans.
“We’ve received the FAA’s letter and plan to fly soon,” a Blue Origin spokesperson said by email.
Though the mishap investigation is closed, Blue Origin still must implement prescribed corrective actions and reapply for a launch license with the FAA before resuming launches of New Shepard. Among the corrective actions is a redesign of the engine nozzle, the FAA said.
“The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of New Shepard launches,” the FAA said on Wednesday.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket took off from the company’s launch facility in West Texas on Sept. 12, 2022, carrying a suite of scientific payloads en route to space. Roughly a minute after takeoff, a problem occurred with the rocket’s engine, causing the vehicle to veer off course.
The issue triggered New Shepard’s abort system, which prompted the capsule carrying the payloads to separate and blast away from the failing rocket. Blue Origin said that the capsule landed safely under parachutes, though the rest of the rocket crashed in the desert.
While New Shepard is designed to carry tourists, no people were on board the flight.
“The experiments that were on board, because it was a payload flight, came back to us,” Ariane Cornell, a vice president at Blue Origin, said at a satellite industry conference in Washington in March. “That would have been the case if we had had people on board. It’s a real jolt, but that is also by design. We want to get the capsule far and fast away from the booster.”
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