Blue Origin Completes NS-23 Investigation, Releases Findings

Blue Origin has completed and released its findings from the investigation of their NS-23 in flight anomaly and abort.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Published: 24th Mar 2023 16:14 GMT
Written by: Zac Aubert

Blue Origin has completed and released its findings from the investigation of their NS-23 in flight anomaly and abort.

Blue Origin's NS-23 experienced a mishap that resulted in the loss of its NS Propulsion Module Tail 3. The New Shepard Crew Capsule escape system worked as intended, bringing the capsule and its payloads to a safe landing at Launch Site One with no damage.

Following the incident, Blue Origin formed a Mishap Investigation Team (MIT) in line with the New Shepard Mishap Investigation Plan. The MIT was led by members of Blue Origin's Safety & Mission Assurance organization and included representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board and NASA's Flight Opportunities Program and Commercial Crew Office. The investigation was conducted with FAA oversight, and the MIT stood up debris search and recovery efforts at Launch Site One immediately after the mishap. All critical flight hardware was recovered within days.

The MIT determined that the direct cause of the mishap was a structural fatigue failure of the BE-3PM engine nozzle during powered flight. This was caused by operational temperatures that exceeded the expected and analyzed values of the nozzle material. Design changes made to the engine's boundary layer cooling system accounted for an increase in nozzle heating and explained the hot streaks present. Blue Origin is implementing corrective actions, 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.

The Mishap Review Board (MRB), which included external non-advocate advisors, reviewed causal determinations made by the MIT and will continue to oversee the corrective action implementation. It is worth noting that no changes to crew safety system designs were recommended as a result of the investigation. Furthermore, public safety was unaffected by the mishap, and there was no danger to human life or property.

Overall, Blue Origin has taken swift action to investigate the incident and implement corrective measures. With the insights gained from the investigation, the company has made design changes to ensure the safe operation of its spacecraft in the future.

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