…by crashing a test vehicle – Successful Short Hop, Set Back, and Next Vehicle:
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.
Nobody wants to lose a test vehicle, of course, but this can actually be a useful development — as anyone who has read Henry Petroski’s books understands, you learn more from your failures than from your successes. It has always struck me as the wrong approach that Orion didn’t budget and schedule a bunch of simple test vehicles, with potential failures and learning from them in mind. Yes there are test vehicles, but they’re each quite complex and expensive, and the failure of any one of them will be seen as a major black eye to the whole program (regardless of what might be learned).
Fortunately, given Bezos’ ability to fund the project, NASA getting cold feet over COTS or CCDEV after a failure probably isn’t much of a threat to the ongoing efforts he mentions in the post.