Blue Origin's chubby spacecraft lifts off, flies, crashes

This is one of the first pictures of Blue Origin's suborbital spacecraft, which had a test launch last week that sent it up 45,000 feet at Mach 1.2. Shortly afterwards, the engines cut out, and the vehicle returned to Earth rather violently. Oops.

To be clear, the spacecraft's engines were cut out on purpose, by controllers on the ground. What was not on purpose was the trajectory that the spacecraft decided to take, which pointed it towards whatever populated areas one might find out in remote West Texas. Ultimately, with the vehicle veering dangerously off course, a kill switch was engaged, and the craft reacquainted itself with gravity, and shortly thereafter, the ground.

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This was not the first test of Blue Origin's slightly mysterious and apparently nameless spacecraft. It has successfully performed several "short hops," which involved take-offs, hovering close to the ground, and landings. Blue Origin's founder, Jeff Bezos (whom you may know from this) managed to stay fairly upbeat about the recent setback, however:

"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."

If that vehicle does a slightly better job than this one did, Blue Origin expects crewed flight tests to start as soon as next year.

Blue Origin, via New Scientist

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