Jeff Bezos' spaceship fails during test flight

Sep 03, 2011

An unmanned spacecraft bankrolled by Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos failed during a recent test flight.

The vehicle became unstable at 45,000 feet and ground controllers had to terminate it as a precaution. Additional details about what went wrong were not released.

"Not the outcome any of us wanted, but we're signed up for this to be hard," Bezos wrote in a blog post Friday.

Bezos founded Blue Origin to develop a vertical takeoff and landing rocketship that would fly passengers to suborbital space. It recently won money from NASA to compete to go into orbit as a space taxi now that the space shuttle fleet is retired.

The mishap occurred during a last week from Blue Origin's West Texas spaceport. The ultra-secretive company notified the about the launch and only acknowledged the accident publicly on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported about the failure, said the test did not use federal funds and was not part of the development agreement with NASA.

Blue Origin's failure shines a spotlight on the risks of commercial space ventures.

, which has a NASA contract to develop a commercial vehicle to haul supplies and astronauts, suffered three rocket failures before it found success. Later this year, the company, run by PayPal founder Elon Musk, will launch a capsule on a cargo test run to the .

Virgin Galactic, founded by , lost three workers in 2007 after an explosion rocked a California airport during testing of a propellant system for its space tourism vehicle. The company is currently conducting flight tests in the and has not set a date for the first passenger flights.

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DocM
4.7 / 5 (14) Sep 03, 2011
"Blue Origin's failure shines a spotlight on the risks of commercial space ventures."

Poppycock!! How many rockets did NASA lose in its early days? That's why they're called TEST FLIGHTS! The whole idea is to find problems, then improve the vehicle.

Someone needs to get someone who knows page-one about aerospace development to write this stuff, or just don't bother.

Mayday
4.5 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2011
The press is generally very negative about space flight. I hope these commercial ventures don't make the same mistake NASA made, but instead enlist some top-notch PR to get the right story out. I also believe the secrecy approach will not help with public support in the end.

IMO, NASA's great failure was not a science failure, nor a money failure, but a PR failure. They never succeeded, or even attempted, at making space science an inspired and necessary venture in the ultimate advancement of human potential. Let's hope these new folks put some brain power against that elemental goal. Without success there, the future of space flight is sunk.
DocM
5 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
Update: this was NOT part of the NASA Commercial Crew Development program but a separate project to develop a fly-back booster. Blue Origin's CCDev project is a bi-conic capsule for launch on an Atlas V booster.
Cube
1.3 / 5 (13) Sep 03, 2011
why is it that no one wants to use helium balloons to go to space? its been done before for weather balloons, why not people?
MachinegunDojo
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 03, 2011
why is it that no one wants to use helium balloons to go to space? its been done before for weather balloons, why not people?


I'd imagine it has something to do with the velocity needed for orbit that a balloon isn't capable of. Once in space you'd still need a lot of energy/fuel to reach the needed speed to obtain orbit which is probably more weight than any feasible balloon would ferry, plus the additional altitude I doubt a weather balloon has reached 350km doing 27,000km/h yet.
Cube
1 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
i know, i'm not saying they should orbit right, but most commercial passengers would probably be happy just being in space. its certainly cheaper than building rockets, and if engineered right much safer as well. a group of amateurs sent one into space to launch some paper planes earlier this year iirc.
DocM
4 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2011
Space starts at 100 km/60 miles. Balloons can't go that high. That said, there have been many attempts at launching rockets from a stratospheric balloon and it does work, but only for small payloads. Look up "Rockoon" on Wikipedia. It was a balloon-launched sounding rocket.
Jeddy_Mctedder
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 03, 2011
cube , what you are trying to suggest , but are unclearly articulating , is that most people would be happy to go to 100,000 or 80,000 feet and hang out and drink a martini and watch the planet below them without being in micro-gravity, and being able to see entire continents from the view.

i agree. and i find it out that no-one has ever even tried to create a high altitude cabin.

i for one have been thinking , reading, and even making napkin designs for something like this for years.

i also have been seeing a number of modern airship designs recently that i've been impressed with. and darpa has been investing in airship technology too as of late ( with one spectacular failure in deploying a blimp in pennsylvania ) .

also, a high altitude ship would not be anywhere as unsafe as a rocket, and it would use far less fuel. also, you wouldn't have to deal with the military being up your ass for being in outer space , and you could more easily sell or license your technology abroad.
TheQuietMan
3.6 / 5 (5) Sep 03, 2011
Since a balloon can't go into space, but merely high altitude, the base premise is flawed beyond salvage.

We need to get to space cheaply not for sightseeing, but for extremely practical reasons. Weather satellites, GPS, low gravity fabrication of drugs and other process (including science) all scream for a practical space program.

Tourism can be part of it, but it isn't even close to a justification for the time, money, and expense. I get the feeling both of you have missed the point on this one.
Ensa
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
People are starting to market high alititude balloon 'space' tourism.
http://www.gizmag...n/19553/

Projects launching rockets from balloons do happen, Usually an amature thing.
For example, some news of a current project I am following.
http://search.the...?q=lohan

gimpypoet
2 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
A baloon needs the atmosphere to fly. When the air thins out as you go higher, the ability to gain more altitude fizzles out.
An airborn launch platform would make more sense, stationary in the upper atmosphere.This could be as big as an aircraft carrier, built with modern composites.no engines would be needed, and the space vehicle could be dropped from the bottom in a similar maner as virgins craft.
this platform hanging from the same cord as the tested but failed space elevator would put less stress on the lines, and couldbe enlarged over time as needed.
In early aviation, plans were made for platforms in the ocean as waypoints befor intercontinental flight was possible, abandoned soon after technology was developed the could fly between the continenets.
people could have a resort upon this platform,just never use hydrogen as the gas in the baloons. this could be processed and replenished enroute to the desired altitude.
gimpypoet
2 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
you'd need some type of power plant propulsion system to keep from drifting with the wind, but this could be flown in by cargo plane anytimeafter construction.
holoman
2 / 5 (5) Sep 03, 2011
When is mankind going to stop using 100 year old buggy whip technology ?

Aren't there any out of the box thinkers on this planet ?
socean
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 03, 2011
Hey physorg! Invest in an friggin spam filter!
TheQuietMan
4 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2011
When is mankind going to stop using 100 year old buggy whip technology ?

Aren't there any out of the box thinkers on this planet ?


The nature of technology is we build on existing knowledge bases.

I assume you are leaving yourself out of the category as an out of the box thinker? There are problem solvers out there, but I suspect they are too busy to be very active on this forum.
GreyLensman
not rated yet Sep 03, 2011
Bezos has posted some pictures of the test flight on the Blue Origin Website:
http://www.blueor...tter.htm
Very nice looking vehicle - there isn't a capsule, this is just a test of the booster.
There was a successful DC-X style short hop done before launching the vehicle to 42,000 feet and Mach 1.2!
DocM
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
Some of us space nuts used a bit of geometry, Google Earth and educated guesswork to come up with dimensions for this machine;

Height: 12.2m (~40 ft)
Top diameter: 3.7m
Bottom diameter:3.4m
Temple
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
Is it just me or does the idea of a Vertical Landing space vehicle just make no sense at all (on Earth)?

Rocket-powered landing requires an incredible amount of energy compared to winged, helicoptered, parachute, etc landings. Gliding landings require essentially no fuel, while a vertical rocket landing requires huge amounts of fuel. Of course, you've got to take that landing fuel with you up into space in the first place, itself requiring quite a bit more fuel.

Payload and flight altitude being equal, it would seem that you'd need well over twice as much fuel than a non-powered decent method would require.

On Earth, where we have a wonderful atmosphere to use for non-powered descents, I see no benefit to hauling into space and back all the fuel required for a vertical landing.
nxtr
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2011
makes no sense to me, since we have air. silly Bezos!
GDM
3 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2011
I seem to recall that you pay a rather large structural penalty to build a glider (think space shuttle). I agree that a powered vertical landing makes little sense, but I'm not a "rocket scientist".
210
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
Hey physorg! Invest in an friggin spam filter!

I think they did my young apprentice...the spam used to pop up so fast on this site that after each post a NEW spam message would follow your post!...yes...they are getting better, not best, just better.
word-
210
1 / 5 (1) Sep 03, 2011
Hey fellers, what about this, now just entertain me, and be nice, please...remember I am family - I post often and I have hacked all your accounts and have your mother's maiden name, home address, your sexual preference(s), arrest records, etc...
Lift off with a balloon or dirigible.
Launch the hypersonic craft to orbit/orbital speed and altitude.
Now, hybridize; combination solar sail and highest possible impulse ionic or electrostatic drive :-)
Am I close? Mars in 30 months instead of 23 with a 50% payload increase?
Wha?
word-to-ya-muthas
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2011
"When is mankind going to stop using 100 year old buggy whip technology ?" - FlapJack

GonnaWanna use dem capcherd alienz teknowledgeee is we?
Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 03, 2011
Next week private space ships are going to help Domino's open a pizza place on the moon.

Imagine the vast profits that will be made by flying fresh cheese and pepperoni to the moon.

The era of commercial space flight is here.
Code_Warrior
3 / 5 (2) Sep 03, 2011
Is it just me or does the idea of a Vertical Landing space vehicle just make no sense at all (on Earth)?


For low Earth orbit missions only, it would be wasteful. On bodies without atmospheres, it may be the only way to do it. I don't know if they are planning a future that includes moon or asteroid landings, but if they are, this type of vehicle can land on nearly any type of large rock out there.
DocM
5 / 5 (1) Sep 03, 2011
Is it just me or does the idea of a Vertical Landing space vehicle just make no sense at all (on Earth)?

Makes perfect sense for a re-usable fly-back booster. It would throttle down after deploying its upper stage(s) (by now much lighter), orient itself for a ballistic tail-first fall until it decelerated to its terminal velocity (usually <300 mph), then do a guided fall until it was time to crank the power up for the landing.

A similar vertical landing system will be used by SpaceX for the crewed version of their Dragon spacecraft. Tests of the required Super Draco landing/launch escape thrusters should happen soon at White Sands.
plasticpower
2 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2011
Honestly, the helium/hydrogen balloon person has the right idea. Get the vehicle hight enough on a balloon, then fire rocket boosters. Hydrogen is cheap as dirt and we have all the materials we need to launch a balloon that can carry multiple tons of weight to almost LEO. I'm almost tempted to say "it's not rocket science" except that you still need a small rocket to fire when the balloon reaches it's floating capacity. That eliminates your first two stages to orbit...
Nik_2213
4 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2011
http://www.reacti...s.co.uk/ Reaction Engines (UK)
Single stage, runway launch and recovery, a dozen tonnes to low equatorial orbit, a break-through in heat-exchanger tech and, unlike 'solids' or rocket-boosted hypersonic ram-jets, Sabre engines can be ground-tested progressively. A non-orbital version of engine enables antipodal express passenger 'aircraft'. And they've got a million Euros grant to progress design & test...
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2011
Honestly, the helium/hydrogen balloon person has the right idea. Get the vehicle hight enough on a balloon, then fire rocket boosters.

Check the heights a balloon can go. It tops out at about 35km(and at that altitude the balloon size to payload ratio is enormous)

If you want to go into space you usually want to go a lot higher (at least low earth orbit - which is where the ISS is stationed - meaning: 300-450km high)

So getting your craft up to 35km high before ignition would only be a small bonus (you save 10% of the trip). When you take into account the vast reduction in size/weight you incur to be able to get it lifted by a balloon to that height then it just doesn't work out.

A Saenger type delivery system would be better (Think of it like a semi-ballistic, reusable SCRAM-jet with the rocket on its back.)
holoman
1 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2011
When is mankind going to stop using 100 year old buggy whip technology ?

Aren't there any out of the box thinkers on this planet ?


The nature of technology is we build on existing knowledge bases.

I assume you are leaving yourself out of the category as an out of the box thinker? There are problem solvers out there, but I suspect they are too busy to be very active on this forum.


Building on captured WWII technology from another country 60 years ago is really creative and innovative, NOT.

During this time NO out of the box thinkers have appeared, then none must exist. Evidenced by today's same o same o
rocket propulsion technology.

Man is doomed to extinction if this is the best we can do.

President Kennedy challenged us to go to the Moon and we did.

Who and What is challenging us today ?

Why haven't we seen any extraordinary new technologies ?

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Sep 05, 2011
Who and What is challenging us today ?

Why haven't we seen any extraordinary new technologies ?

You're expecting a timeline for scientific breakthroughs? You remind me of the epic line a science manager once uttered to my face:
"The project is starting today, so draw up a project plan until when you will have finished inventing this." (He said it with a straight face, too. Yes, he got his project plan - and no: it wasn't worth the paper it was written on)