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Amazon Chief’s Spaceship Misfires


Oops. Bring on the “I told you so’s.” One of the test vehicles for commercial crew that gets NASA out of the crew-lifting business is toast.

From the Wall Street Journal-

An unmanned spaceship funded by Internet billionaire Jeff Bezos veered out of control and had to be destroyed during a recent test flight, highlighting the dramatic risks of private space ventures.

The spacecraft, developed by closely held Blue Origin LLC, was on a suborbital flight from the company’s West Texas spaceport last week when it started to go off course and ground personnel lost normal contact with the vehicle. Investigators are looking at remnants of the craft recovered on the ground to determine the cause.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on the failure, Blue Origin Friday posted a brief note on its website stating the spacecraft, while going faster than the speed of sound, suffered a “flight instability” at an altitude of 45,000 feet and the company’s automated “range safety system” shut off all thrust and led to its destruction. The problem appeared to stem from thrusters that didn’t respond properly to the initial commands, according to one industry official.
The note, signed by Mr. Bezos, said it was “not the outcome any of us wanted,” but “we’re signed up for this to be hard.”

Full story…

Nasawatch entry and comments…

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4 Responses to “Amazon Chief’s Spaceship Misfires”

  • Accidents are part of the learning process. And new commercial spaceflight companies are quickly learning that to develop and routinely launch vehicles into space is a lot easier on paper and on simulated videos than they are in reality.

    But even for professional space programs with long histories of success, failures can occur as we have seen in both the American and Russian space programs.

    But this should be a warning that NASA should not put all of its eggs in the basket of commercial crew development or foreign launch vehicles. IMO, Congress should make it a priority that a simple and safe SLS derived crew launch vehicle (such as the crew launch concept proposed by Boeing) should be developed that doesn’t require the use of SRBs or other other strap-on rockets.

  • Space:

    “IMO, Congress should make it a priority that a simple and safe SLS derived crew launch vehicle (such as the crew launch concept proposed by Boeing) should be developed that doesn’t require the use of SRBs or other other strap-on rockets.”

    This assumes that Congress is capable of making a practical, logical decision instead of a political one!

  • Congress already requires that the SLS be man-rated. NASA would probably have to present the simplest SLS crew launch concept to Congress while arguing that such a vehicle does not violate the spirit of the law if it lifts less than 70 tons into orbit.

    But we’d still have the problem of a current administration that is extremely hostile to NASA having any in-house launch capability.

    But we are nearing an election cycle where Obama is behind some Republicans in the polls in Florida while some pro-NASA Democrats like Nelson (whose actually flown in space) are well ahead of their Republican opponents in Florida. Maybe Obama will get the message– if he really wants to be president again.

  • Astronautics_Student:

    Who else saw this coming?

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