Spacecraft Financed by Amazon's Bezos Crashes; Space Tourism Dream Lives

on September 04 2011 2:09 PM
Jeff Bezos’ ‘Highly Secretive’ Blue Origin Test Vehicle Crashes
During a developmental test of a spacecraft funded by Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos, the vehicle misfired and crashed at an altitude of 45,000 feet in West Texas. blue origin/handout

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos can launch an e-commerce giant, he can launch the world's most popular e-reader, the Kindle, and he is likely to soon launch a new tablet to compete with Apple's iPad. But he hasn't yet been able to launch a rocket that successfully leads to space tourism.

It's not for a lack of trying, though.

But Bezos' space tourism dream was dealt a setback this week after a spacecraft funded by the Amazon chief was lost during a recent test. The spacecraft had a successful test three months ago, but Bezos wrote in a note on the Web site for Blue Origin, his space venture, that researchers lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet.

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, Bezos wrote. We're already working on our next development vehicle.

Bezos said there was no crew on board the capsule.

We're working on the sub-orbital crew capsule separately, as well as an orbital crew vehicle to support NASA's Commercial Crew program, Bezos said.

Bezos and researchers have released few details about Blue Origin in recent years. The last post on the Web site before news of the spacecraft being lost was made in 2007. He did post some photos of the test vehicle, however, which shows a cylindrical object with thrusters at the bottom.

Three months ago, we successfully flew our second test vehicle in a short hop mission, and then last week we lost the vehicle during a developmental test at Mach 1.2 and an altitude of 45,000 feet, Bezos wrote in a Sept. 2 letter posted on the Blue Origin Web site. 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.

Blue Origin claims the company is working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system.

The company's first objective was developing New Shepard, a vertical take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital space journey. On Nov. 13, 2006, Blue Orbit launched and landed Goddard, a first-phase vehicle in the New Shepard program.

Blue Origin is based in Kent, Washington. The company claims on its site to be hiring, though its hiring bar is unabashedly extreme, and we insist on keeping our team size small.

Hiring criteria includes a genuine passion for space, desire to work at a small company, and interest in building real hardware.

In addition to founding and leading Amazon, while also pushing the giant online retailer into consumer technology including the Kindle and a forthcoming tablet, Bezos is also funding a $42 million project to construct a 10,000 year clock and he recently filed a patent application for a smartphone airbag system.

 

 

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