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A parachute failed during a crewed landing of Blue Origin's return-to-flight mission

One of three main parachutes failed to fully deploy during Blue Origins NS-25 crewed mission

After a mid-flight failure during the uncrewed research mission of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket in September 2022, Jeff Bezos’ launch provider had to ground the spacecraft for a long time to provide time for investigation, risk assessment, and mitigations to be put in place.

Last December, over a year later, the New Shepard has finally seen the sky again during another cargo mission, and on Sunday, the reusable rocket finally gave a ride to another crew of astronauts.

Blue Origin’s NS-25 space tourism mission has seen the New Shepard lifting off from the launch site in West Texas, the crew capsule separating from the launcher and reaching an altitude of roughly 106 kilometers, just about the Kármán line – the conventional definition of the edge of space.

The suborbital flight was nominal. However, not all went as planned, and Blue Origin has another thing to look into, as one of the three main parachutes failed to fully inflate.

“Landing with two parachutes is perfectly O.K. for this system,” said Blue Origin’s Ariane Cornell during the livestream. The crew capsule is, in fact, designed for redundancy, and it is able to land safely with only two parachutes. However, the failure will surely spark an investigation due to safety concerns for future flights.

It is not only Blue Origin and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who should pay attention. As the space reporter Stephen Clark from Ars Technica pointed out on X (formerly Twitter), New Shepard’s main parachutes are manufactured by Airborne Systems – the same company that supplies main parachutes for three more crew capsules: SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Boeing’s Starliner, and NASA’s Orion (part of the Artemis return-to-Moon program).

Blue Origin hasn't commented on the issue yet. Regardless, the flight was called a success, and the crew of six was happy with the suborbital adventure.

“Life-changing experience. Everybody needs to do this,” said immediately after the landing the former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, who was selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 as the nation’s first black astronaut candidate but never had the opportunity to fly: “I thought I really didn’t need this in my life, but now I need it in my life. This is fabulous.”

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