(Washington) The American space company Blue Origin must relaunch its New Shepard rocket on Monday for the first time since an accident that occurred more than a year ago, thus marking the great return to the air of the company founded by the billionaire Jeff Bezos.
The firing window for the launch from West Texas opens at 8:30 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. Eastern time), Blue Origin said, which will broadcast the flight live on its website.
The mission, named NS-24, will not carry anyone, but scientific experiments will be conducted on board, more than half of which are being developed with support from NASA.
The accident, which occurred in September 2022, resulted in the crash of the rocket’s propulsion stage, which was not carrying passengers.
An investigation was opened by the American aviation regulator (FAA), which concluded in September that the accident had been caused by “a higher than expected operational temperature of the engine”.
The FAA had requested changes from the space company before flights could resume. These “corrective actions” included modifying the design of certain engine components.
The regulator confirmed to AFP on Sunday that it had approved the modified flight license filed by Blue Origin.
The New Shepard rocket is notably used by the company for space tourism flights from Texas.
It has already transported 31 people for trips of a few minutes over the final frontier, including company founder Jeff Bezos.
The rocket is made up of a propulsion stage and, at its top, the capsule carrying its cargo.
During the mission named NS-23, the capsule’s automatic ejection system was triggered and it fell to the ground slowed by its parachutes.
The main stage had been destroyed by hitting the ground, instead of landing in a controlled manner for reuse, as usual.
All the debris had fallen within the designated safety zone, the FAA noted in September.
Blue Origin competes in the niche of short space tourism flights with Virgin Galactic, a company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson.
But Blue Origin is also developing a heavy launcher, named New Glenn, for which it plans the first flight in 2024. At 98 meters high, the New Glenn rocket should be able to carry up to 45 tonnes into low Earth orbit – a completely different scale. as the suborbital flights of New Shepard.