September 4, 2011
Spacecraft Funded By Amazon Executive Crashes
An unmanned spacecraft funded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos veered off course during a recent test flight and had to be destroyed, the Wall Street Journal first reported Saturday.
In the article, reporter Andy Pasztor said that the incident with the Blue Origin LLC-developed vehicle occurred on August 24 at the company's spaceport in West Texas. Pasztor noted that the vehicle "started to go off course and ground personnel lost normal contact with the vehicle."
Investigators were analyzing recovered remnants of the vertical take-off and landing vehicle in order to determine the cause, he added.
Following the Wall Street Journal report, Bezos and Blue Origin posted a statement on the company's official website in which they said that a "flight instability drove an angle of attack that triggered our range safety system to terminate thrust on the vehicle. Not the outcome any of us wanted."
The company added that they were already working on their "next development vehicle."
"The mishap“¦ dealt a potentially major blow to the ambitions of Mr. Bezos“¦ to develop a reliable system for blasting tourists and astronauts out of the atmosphere," Pasztor said. "The failure also could set back White House plans to promote commercially developed spacecraft to transport crews to the international space station by the second half of this decade."
Pasztor noted in his September 3 report that the company has received more than $25 million from NASA to develop rockets and privately developed spacecraft. However, the Associated Press noted that the failed test did not use federal funds, and the Wall Street Journal added that it should not affect the company's funding.
This latest development, Kenneth Chang of the New York Times said Friday, is the first update of the Blue Origin vehicle's progress in more than four years. Previously, in November 2006, the company successfully launched a test vehicle 285 feet into the air, but Bezos waited about six weeks before making that information public outside of the firm, Chang claimed.
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