The parachute failed to open during Jeff Bezos’ space tourism return mission

Blue Origin, the company founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, launched an investigation after an incident during its first manned flight in two years, in which one of the parachutes on the New Shepard capsule failed to fully inflate.

companies The new Shepard rocket was launched on May 19 carrying a crew of six into suborbital space. On the NS-25 mission, the crew capsule landed to end the flight, but only two of the three parachutes were fully inflated, SpaceNews reported. Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, recently discovered the problem during a briefing on the upcoming crewed test flight of the Boeing Starliner. Blue Origin did not publicly announce the problem with its parachute, instead notifying NASA officials of the anomaly since vehicles such as Boeing’s Starliner use similar components.

New Shepard uses three parachutes to slow the crew capsule as it returns to Earth, although it can land with only one parachute fully deployed. The parachutes are designed to deploy in three stages, but during the NS-25 mission, one of the three parachutes failed in the first stage when the line controlling its inflation was not cut as it should have been, according to Stich.

«A small group of people are working on these parachutes,» SpaceNews quoted Sticha as saying. “They have been excellent in sharing data with us. They don’t really have any underlying cause yet, and we’re continuing to monitor them.»

Bezos’ private space venture continued its space tourism program with the NS-25 mission nearly two years after his rocket landed. In September 2022 the flight of the unmanned New Shepard ended in flames about a minute after takeoff. The rocket’s booster exploded mid-flight, and its capsule left the ship while traveling at approximately 700 miles per hour (1,130 kilometers per hour) and 29,000 feet (8,840 meters) above the ground.

Blue Origin identified «engine nozzle thermostructural failure» as the reason for the failed rocket launch. At the time, New Shepard was carrying 36 payloads, more than half of which belonged to NASA, but there was no crew in the capsule. The company resumed space tourism operations with its seventh human spaceflight on May 19, marking a comeback after a previous launch failure. We don’t yet know the severity of the chute problem or whether it will cause further delays. While we’re not parachute experts, it’s fair to say that this is a concern; if one parachute fails to open, this could indicate the possibility of multiple failures during descent.

In addition, engineers on the Boeing Starliner program discovered their own parachute problem, which delayed the first flight of the crewed capsule. A few weeks before the scheduled liftoff on July 21, 2023, the Starliner teams discovered that parts of the parachutes had lower failure load limit than expected. This meant that if one parachute failed, the remaining two would not be able to slow the Starliner down enough for a safe landing in New Mexico. In March 2024. Boeing has announced that it has resolved the security issue.

The problem with parachutes stems from the difficulty in accurately simulating the environment in which they are deployed. «Even today, with all the technology we have and everything else, as far as we’ve come with parachutes, we still can’t model the inflation of a parachute,» Stich said, according to SpaceNews. “It seems like it should be easy. It’s still a little difficult.”

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