The Blue Origin New Shepard-23 uncrewed launch mishap back in September of last year was caused by a thermo-structural failure of the suborbital rocket’s engine nozzle.
The resulting thrust misalignment triggered the New Shepard (NS) Crew Capsule escape system, which functioned as designed throughout the flight.
In a statement released today, the private group said the Crew Capsule and all payloads onboard landed safely and will be flown again. “Blue Origin expects to return to flight soon, with a re-flight of the NS-23 payloads,” the statement adds.
As for technical details: The NS-23 mishap resulted in the loss of NS Propulsion Module Tail 3.
“As part of the response to the Crew Capsule escape, the Propulsion Module commanded shutdown of the BE-3PM engine and followed an unpowered trajectory to impact within the defined flight safety analysis prediction, resulting in no danger to human life or property. Public safety was unaffected by the mishap, and no changes to crew safety system designs were recommended as a result of the investigation” into the mishap.
Aided by onboard video and telemetry, flight hardware recovered from the field, and the work of Blue Origin’s materials labs and test facilities, a mishap study group determined the direct cause of the mishap to be a structural fatigue failure of the BE-3PM engine nozzle during powered flight.
“The structural fatigue was caused by operational temperatures that exceeded the expected and analyzed values of the nozzle material,” the statement explains. “Forensic evaluation of the recovered nozzle fragments also showed clear evidence of thermal damage and hot streaks resulting from increased operating temperatures. The fatigue location on the flight nozzle is aligned with a persistent hot streak identified during the investigation.”
Blue Origin is implementing corrective actions, the summary statement explains, “including design changes to the combustion chamber and operating parameters, which have reduced engine nozzle bulk and hot-streak temperatures. Additional design changes to the nozzle have improved structural performance under thermal and dynamic loads.”
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