The very same New Shepard booster that flew above the Karman line (the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space) and then landed vertically at its launch site last November has now flown and landed again, demonstrating reuse.
This time, New Shepard reached an apogee of 333,582 feet (101.7 kilometers) before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse.
The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including a noteworthy one. Rather than the vehicle translating to land at the exact center of the pad, it now initially targets the center, but then sets down at a position of convenience on the pad, prioritising vehicle attitude ahead of precise lateral positioning.
It’s like a pilot lining up a plane with the centerline of the runway. If the plane is a few feet off center as you get close, you don’t swerve at the last minute to ensure hitting the exact mid-point. You just land a few feet left or right of the centerline.
Amazon boss and owner of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos described the the restart as “flawless” and the landing as “perfect.” Blue Origin will continue to conduct test launches in order to perfect its system, but Bezos told the Associated Press last month that it expects to make its first test flights with humans aboard in 2017.