A spaceship funded by Internet billionaire Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon.com, crashed during a test flight in West Texas.
There was no one on board the flight, and no one on the ground was injured.
Following the report of the crash on Friday afternoon on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site, Bezos acknowledged the failure on the Web site of his space company, Blue Origin. The vehicle reached an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 1.2 times the speed of sound before a flight instability occurred.
The problem appeared to stem from thrusters that didn't respond properly to the initial commands.
The accident, which industry officials said occurred on Aug. 24, is probably a huge setback for the aspiration of Mr. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., for developing a dependable system for transporting tourists and astronauts into the space.
Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., is developing a suborbital spaceship called New Shepard, which is to take off and land vertically for carrying people to the near edge of the space.
In addition, the failure can be a stumbling block for the plan of White House for promoting commercially developed spacecraft for transporting crews to the international space station by the second half of this decade.
President Barack Obama's administration is championing these missions. The objective is supporting numerous projects such as Blue Origin so that the U.S. will have other options for reaching the orbiting station. This is subsequent to the permanent withdrawal of the NASA's space shuttle fleet.
Recently NASA has dispensed hundreds of millions of dollars as funding for promoting the development of various private rockets and spacecraft. This will include more than $25 million set aside for Blue Origin. The intention is that they will be serving as the next generation of regular, cheaper vehicles for going back and forth to the space station.
As for NASA, the mishap has occurred at a crucial time. As of now, lawmakers and the White House are engaged in an ever more unpleasant dispute over federal efforts and funding that should be endowed in commercial space systems.
There are, in fact, three commercial space ventures backed by billionaire entrepreneurs. All three of them have become the most appreciated global figures of privately funded spacecraft. Blue Origin is one of them. The second one is Sir Richard Branson's space-travel company Virgin Galactic. And the third is PayPal co-founder Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
It was in February 2007 that officials from Virgin and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the potential for collaboration.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, both of which are built with a goal of becoming reusable launch vehicles.