Maybe Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) should have quit while it was ahead.

Last week, on July 10, the defense contractor made history when its X-47B prototype robotic fighter jet executed a flawless landing aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush off the Virginia coast. Turns out, the Navy thought the landing went so nice, they'd try it twice -- so the X-47B took off and landed on the Bush again. And that's where things went wrong.

Perhaps feeling their oats, the Navy then decided to try going 3-for-3 with the test jet, designated "Salty Dog 502." So off the plane took, circled, and tried to land a third and final time -- but this time the plane detected a "navigation computer anomaly," aborted the carrier landing, and went back to shore to land at Wallops Island Air Field in Virginia.

Five days later, the Navy tried to get another Northrop X-47B, this one dubbed "Salty Dog 501," to put itself down on deck. Unfortunately, this attempt, too, failed. Navy officials blamed "a minor test instrumentation issue" for the scrubbed landing.

Result: The Navy, and Northrop, turned a record of 2-for-2 successful landings into 2-for-4.