Blue Origin has made a breakthrough which could potentially bring about a new era in more affordable space transportation.
The aerospace company set up by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos launched its ‘New Shep
ard’ rocket into space yesterday, where it reached its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5km), considered the beginning of outer space.
New Shepard then executed an historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas, in the process becoming a rare commodity and what promises to be a game changer for space transportation – a reusable rocket.
It also became the first rocket to successfully launch into space and then land vertically back on earth.
New Shepard set back down at the West Texas launch pad at 4.4 miles per hour and landed less than five feet from its target.
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said the successful landing of New Shepard after its test launch was a game changer, as full reuse of space vehicles looks set to be the key to enable human access to space at a substantially lower cost.
“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts – a used rocket,” he said.
“Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission – soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad,
“Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”
Buoyed by this week’s successful test of New Shepard, Blue Origin is selling space on the capsules during the test flights for research experiments and plans to begin flying them next year.
Commercial flights for tourists where Blue Origin provide the ‘Astronaut Experience’ could begin in the next few years.
Yesterday’s historic rocket landing builds on a largely successful test flight in April.
During this flight the launch and the landing of the capsule was flawless, but the rocket crashed because of a failure with a hydraulic system.
Blue Origin have beaten other space transportation companies to the punch with the success of its New Shepard launch and subsequent landing.
A muted reaction from Elon Musk
Fellow aerospace company SpaceX has previously tried to land the booster stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform numerous times, only to be unsuccessful in their endeavour for a vertical rocket landing.
In reaction to Blue Origin’s historic New Shepard landing, Space X founder Elon Musk took to Twitter to first congratulate their rival’s achievement, but pointed out to Jeff Bezos that Blue Origin didn’t quite make history in the fashion he had thought.
Jeff maybe unaware SpaceX suborbital VTOL flight began 2013. Orbital water landing 2014. Orbital land landing next. https://t.co/S6WMRnEFY5
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
Another Musk tweet stated: “It is, however, important to clear up the difference between “space” and “orbit”, as described well by https://what-if.xkcd.com/58/”
Musk pointed out that there is a big difference between ‘space’ and ‘orbital’, meaning the Blue Origin rocket landing was much easier to pull off than the unsuccessful attempts of his company, and that New Shepard is only the world’s first reusable suborbital rocket.
New Shepard is named in honour of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, who achieved the feat in 1961.
The vehicle is comprised of two elements – a crew capsule in which the astronauts ride and a rocket booster powered by a single American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine.
The BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust at lift-off, while astronauts experience three times the force of gravity during the spacecraft’s ascent through the atmosphere.