On Tuesday morning, Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin announced that they had made history.
They had successfully flown their first stage rocket, named New Shepard, to an altitude of 62 miles and brought it back in one piece. Here’s the footage:
This is a huge accomplishment for the approaching era of reusable rockets, which will drastically reduce the cost of spaceflight.
With a fleet of reusable rockets, companies could launch the same rocket many times over instead of building new multi-million dollar rockets for every flight.
The New Shepard rocket was also carrying with it a spacecraft that is designed to eventually shuttle six customers into suborbital space.
Suborbital space is right at the boundary where Earth ends and space begins — about 61 miles above the surface.
It’s called suborbital because the spacecraft is not high enough or fast enough to actually orbit the Earth, but people can still experience a brief period of weightlessness, just like the astronauts on board the International Space Station.
The launch ended with the spacecraft safely parachuting down to the ground at Blue Origin’s test site near the town of Van Horn, Texas.
After that, it was time for the crew to watch as the rocket came plummeting back to Earth. To prevent it from crash landing, the team had designed the rocket to fire its engines providing enough thrust to slow the rocket’s speed for a perfect touch down:
“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts — a used rocket,” said Bezos in a Blue Origin statement. “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.”
SpaceX has also built reusable rockets, and has attempted two landings, so far. Neither of which succeeded.
There is an important difference, however, between New Shepard and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which makes it trickier for SpaceX to land their rocket than Blue Origin.
That’s because SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are heavier, faster, and fly higher than New Shepard.
Therefore, when a Falcon 9 re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it’s travelling faster and therefore requires a more powerful thrust to slow down.
SpaceX is required to attempt its rocket landings miles off shore in the middle of the ocean in case something goes wrong with the landing. Because when it does, you get a giant explosion.
Check out the footage of Blue Origin landing their New Shepard reusable rocket below:
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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