Blue Origin test rocket in an earlier test.

Update, Saturday morning: After mishap, Bezos vows to press ahead with Blue Origin space project, crew capsule

A spacecraft launched by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin project experienced a “major failure” during a test flight from the venture’s West Texas spaceport last week, according to a Wall Street Journal report this afternoon.

Following up on the WSJ report, Forbes talks to residents of the area who witnessed the incident and describe it “as resembling the notorious 1986 Challenger disaster.”

The Wall Street Journal says the cause of the accident isn’t known, but parts of the spacecraft were recovered on the ground and are being analyzed. Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., south of Seattle, isn’t commenting on the incident.

The incident could be a setback for efforts by the White House to promote commercial spaceflight following the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, the WSJ reports. In 2007 following another test of Blue Origin spacecraft, Jeff Bezos explained the goal.

“We’re working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system,” he wrote at the time. “Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we’re working on it methodically.”

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