Did Blue Origin Vehicle Crash?

An interesting update from Andy Pasztor at the Wall Street Journal on Blue Origin’s Aug. 24 test flight:

An unmanned spaceship funded by Internet billionaire Jeff Bezos suffered a major failure during a recent test flight, according to U.S. government and industry officials, highlighting the dramatic risks of private space ventures.

The vertical takeoff and landing spacecraft, developed by closely held Blue Origin LLC, was on a suborbital flight from the company’s West Texas spaceport last week, these officials said, when ground personnel lost contact and control of the vehicle. The exact nature and cause of the failure were unclear, but remnants of the spacecraft could provide clues for investigators.

Parts of the vehicle were recovered on the ground and are now being analyzed by company experts, according to government and industry officials.

The mishap dealt a potentially major blow to the ambitions of Mr. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon.com Inc., to develop a reliable system for blasting tourists and astronauts out of the atmosphere.

It’s not clear what connection there is between this test of a suborbital vehicle and Blue Origin’s work on an orbital vehicle for NASA. According to the space agency’s CCDev Milestone Schedule published on Aug. 18, Blue Origin is not scheduled to test the pusher escape system for the orbital vehicle until next year.

The company is not commenting on the report, continuing its virtual news blackout on its work. This was perfectly acceptable when Blue Origin was being funded privately. Now that it’s getting public money, I’m not sure this is a sound policy anymore. The company probably needs to open up a bit more.

Read the full story.