The private space race has gotten off to an ugly start.
Jeff Bezos, the chief executive officer of Amazon.com, recently said a spaceship from Blue Origin LLC, a company he has invested heavily in, was lost and had to be put down during a recent test flight. The flight was lost at test speeds of Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet.
According to Bezos, it was the second test flight for the unnamed spacecraft and its lack of success was due to flight instability according to a note from Bezos. Thrusters which didn't respond properly to the initial command may have played a part in the space ship's failures.
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, but we're signed up for this to be hard, and the Blue Origin team is doing an outstanding job. We're already working on our next development vehicle, Bezos wrote.
Luckily, the development vehicle is an unmanned ship and obviously no one was hurt during the incident, which according to Bezos happened last week. Bezos said there was another spacecraft in development from Blue Origin, so all was not lost with this one.
Along with Bezos' millions made from Amazon.com, Blue Origin has been funded by NASA on several occasions. In April of this year, Blue Origin received a commitment of $22 million in funding from NASA as part of the CCDev phase 2 program.
With the recent end of the space shuttle program, NASA has attempted to bolster private space enterprise with various rounds of funding. Other companies looking to get into the private space industry such as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Space Adventures, United Launch Alliance and Boeing have also received millions in funding from NASA. Other companies such as Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic have gone at it without funding from NASA.
Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, is confident his company can get a man into space by the middle of the decade. He has even promised his space crafts will be able to send a man to Mars and the moon within a quicker time period than NASA has promised (2030s for Mars, 2020s for the moon). Bezos on the other hand has been a lot more secretive about Blue Origin's plans and development.
Until private companies can send a man into space, U.S. astronauts will be hitching a ride with Russian Soyuz spaceships. This fact has many Americans, such as Presidential Candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry, up in arms.
Unfortunately, with the final landing of the Shuttle Atlantis and no indication of plans for future missions, this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation's legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space, Perry said in a statement.