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TL;DR: Blue Origin experienced a booster failure during a planned launch on Monday morning that prompted the unmanned crew capsule to break away from the booster. Fortunately, no crew members were aboard this flight. The capsule floated back to Earth under the aid of parachutes and touched down in the desert. The landing looked a bit rough on the live feed but we'll need to see flight data to determine exactly how hard it hit.
The launch window for New Shepard's 23rd mission opened at 8:30 a.m. central time. Liftoff occurred at 10:26 a.m. from Blue Origin's Launch Site One in West Texas and everything appeared to be going smoothly at first. The booster failure occurred a little over a minute into the flight as New Shepard reached max q, the moment when aerodynamic stress on the vehicle reaches its maximum.
The anomaly triggered the emergency capsule escape system, which safely separated the crew capsule from the booster. Separation took place at an altitude of around 28,000 feet as New Shepard was approaching speeds of 700 mph.
The mission was a dedicated payloads flight, which was transporting 36 payloads from academia, research institutions and students around the world. Blue Origin said 18 payloads on the flight were funded by NASA, while another consisted of tens of thousands of postcards from Blue Origin's nonprofit.
The presenter on the livestream went silent as the event played out. "It appears we have experienced an anomaly with today's flight," the presenter said about a minute later. "This was unplanned and we don't have any details yet. But our crew capsule was able to escape successfully. We'll follow its progress through landing. As you can see, the drogues have deployed, and the mains are going to be pulled out next."
Ars Technica's senior space editor, Eric Berger, said that if a crew had been on board, they would have felt a serious jolt but would have otherwise been safe.
Blue Origin has conducted six crewed missions to date, the most recent of which took place on August 4, 2022. Several celebrities including William Shatner, Michael Strahan and founder Jeff Bezos have hitched a ride to the edge of space courtesy of Blue Origin.
Blue Origin later confirmed on Twitter that a booster failure had occurred, adding that the escape system performed as designed.