Blue Origin NS-23 failure due to rocket engine nozzle overheating

An anomaly moment during the New Shepard NS-23 cargo mission, in which the launch vehicle engine failed.

Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin has released the results of an investigation into a failed cargo flight last year that it says was due to a problem with a rocket engine nozzle.

The company’s New Shepard rocket on mission NS-23 carrying science and research payloads crashed in September 2022. There were no people on board, and Blue Origin says its capsule’s escape system was functioning properly, but the rocket’s reusable booster was destroyed.

The Bezos company has previously said little about its investigation over the past six months, which was overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

IN blog post On Friday, Blue Origin said it had identified “thermostructural engine nozzle failure” as the direct cause of the problem and is currently modifying the engine, including design changes, to accommodate higher-than-expected temperatures during flight.

“Blue Origin expects to return to flying soon with the re-flight of the NS-23 payload,” the company said.

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The New Shepard rocket launches from a private Blue Origin facility in West Texas, carrying people and cargo over 100 kilometers — or more than 340,000 feet — for a couple of minutes in zero gravity. The capsule flies autonomously, without a human pilot, and descends using a set of parachutes to land in the Texas wilderness. The New Shepard rocket booster can be reused by returning to the concrete pad near the launch pad.

Blue Origin said its investigation found that Flight NS-23’s engine failure was due to “operating temperatures that exceeded expected and analyzed nozzle material values.” The company recovered fragments of the BE-3PM engine nozzle, finding “clear evidence of thermal damage and hot air streaks as a result of elevated operating temperatures.”

The company noted that its design changes are designed to improve engine performance at high temperatures, as well as strengthen the engine nozzle.

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