Rocket Financed by Amazon Founder Crashes in Test

By  – Published: September 2, 2011

Mario Tama/Getty Images Jeffrey P. Bezos

A spacecraft financed by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the billionaire chief executive of Amazon.com, crashed during a test flight in West Texas, Mr. Bezos said on Friday.

No one was on board for the flight, and no one on the ground was injured when the spaceship went out of control on Aug. 24.

After the crash was reported Friday afternoon on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site, Mr. 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.

“Not the outcome any of us wanted,” Mr. Bezos wrote, “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.”

The company released a photograph of the stubby cylindrical rocket in flight before the malfunction.

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 space.

The company did not announce plans for the latest flight test beforehand, but the Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary flight restriction for the morning of Aug. 24, telling aircraft to stay out of the air space around Van Horn, Tex., “due to rocket launch activity” by Blue Origin.

When the time period passed, the notice disappeared from the F.A.A. Web site, with no comment from Blue Origin.

Blue Origin is parsimonious in giving updates about its progress, even when it is successful.

When it got a test vehicle off the ground in November 2006 — reaching a not-so-high altitude of 285 feet — Mr. Bezos waited a month and a half before letting anyone outside of Blue Origin know. That was the last update on the Web site for four and a half years, until Friday. In addition to the failure, Mr. Bezos said the company had conducted a successful “short hop” flight test three months ago.

Blue Origin is one of several companies aiming to fly tourists above the 62-mile altitude that is typically considered the edge of outer space, offering a few minutes of weightlessness. The company also has a contract with NASA as part of its so-called commercial crew program to develop a system that can take astronauts to orbit. The crash was not related to the NASA work.

Credit: NYTimes

A version of this article appeared in print on September 3, 2011, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Rocket Financed by Amazon Founder Crashes in Test

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