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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 2, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Bezos spacecraft has “major failure” (UPDATE, with photos)

An unmanned spacecraft that Amazon.com boss Jeff Bezos built in Kent and launched in Texas had a “major failure” during a test flight, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Apparently the craft went out of control of ground personnel and crashed, raising concerns as the government is shifting spacecraft development to private ventures such as Bezos’ venture in Kent, Blue Origin.

The report says parts were recovered on the ground and are being analyzed. It cites government and industry officials familiar with the ultra secretive project.

Blue Origin told the paper the craft was destroyed as a precaution after control was lost at 45,000 feet.

After the Journal story, Bezos posted a brief description of the event and photos of the craft on a previous, successful test and right before last week’s failure. The statement:

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. 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’s first test flight, in 2006, was a success. Here’s an image of that craft from its Web site:

pic9.jpg

Here’s the craft lost last week, in an earlier test:

m1pic1.png

Here’s another picture that Bezos posted, showing the craft at Mach 1.2 and 45,000 feet “right before the thrust termination system activated”:

m2pic1.png

Comments | More in | Topics: Amazon.com, Billionaire techies

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