Blue Origin calls off 1st New Shepard rocket launch since 2022 failure due to 'ground system issue'

A white and blue rocket stands on its launch pad awaiting liftoff in the Texas desert
Blue Origin's NS-24 mission was scrubbed due to a ground systems issue on Dec. 18, 2023. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin's first mission in more than 15 months was officially delayed on Monday (Dec. 18) after a last-minute scrub.

Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle was originally supposed to lift off as early as 9:30 a.m. EST (1430 GMT or 8:30 a.m. EST) on Monday. Following a one-hour delay due to cold temperatures at the company's West Texas site, however, Blue Origin announced a scrub on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"We're scrubbing #NS24 today due to a ground system issue the team is troubleshooting. We'll provide a new launch target for this week soon," officials wrote on X.

When the new launch date is announced, you can watch the action live via Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos. Space.com will carry the company's feed if possible. 

Related: Blue Origin says it knows what caused its New Shepard rocket launch to fail

New Shepard can send both people and payloads to suborbital space, but it has remained grounded since an anomaly occurred during an uncrewed flight on Sept. 12, 2022. That launch saw New Shepard's first-stage booster destroyed, although the capsule deployed parachutes successfully and landed nearby with its 36 research payloads.

A mishap investigation, run by Blue Origin itself, found the cause of the crash was an engine nozzle's "thermo-structural failure." That's the engine powering New Shepard's booster. Blue Origin later made design changes to the engine in preparation for future flights. 

Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket and capsule stand atop its West Texas launch pad ahead of the NS-24 uncrewed suborbital launch scheduled for Dec. 18, 2023. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

The next mission on tap for the company will be uncrewed, just like the last one. This new mission, called NS-24 as it'd be the 24th launch for New Shepard, includes 33 research payloads. More than half of them were "developed and flown with support from NASA," Blue Origin wrote in a mission description

"Others come from K-12 schools, universities, and STEAM-focused organizations," officials added in the description. (STEAM stands for "science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.")

Also on board NS-24 are 38,000 postcards for "Club for the Future." That's a Blue Origin-founded nonprofit aiming to incite interest in space exploration and related topics among young people.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace