On Jan. 22 Bue Origin — the spaceflight company owned and founded by billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos — landed its reusable rocket, named New Shepard, for the second time. And here’s the footage the company released to prove it:
There’s only one way to land a rocket: upright. So, as expected, this second landing looks a lot like the first one Blue Origin achieved last November.
But there are a few differences this time around, Bezos explained to Business Insider in an email:
- New Shepard reached an altitude of 63.2 miles compared to the 62.4 miles it reached on Nov. 24, 2015.
- Software improvements now enable the rocket to target its landing point from farther away, similar to how pilots line up with the runway before landing. “This new strategy increases margins, improving the vehicle’s ability to reject disturbances created by low-altitude winds,” Bezos wrote.
This is the second vertical-landing-vertical-takeoff rocket in history that has launched to space and returned for a successful landing.
Blue Origin’s rival spaceflight company, SpaceX, is also making history with its reusable rockets. So far, SpaceX has achieved one rocket landing.
To be fair, SpaceX rocket landings are more complicated to perform because the reusable first stage is travelling at faster speeds when it reaches space, therefore, requiring a number of complex maneuvers — including a somersault in space — to return to Earth.
New Shepard, on the other hand, launches to space and then falls back to Earth, firing its rockets seconds before touch down for a soft, safe landing. No somersaults needed, as shown in the diagram below:
Right now, Blue Origin’s impressive rocket landing are test runs as opposed to SpaceX, who attempts its landings after completing a mission for which its been paid to complete.
Both Blue Origin and SpaceX have achieved what was thought impossible ten years ago: sending a rocket to space and then bringing it back. This type of rocket reusability is expected to drastically cut the cost of spaceflight, enabling more people to take a trip to space than at any other point in history.
Not only that, reusable rocket technology is critical for realising Bezos dream of “millions of people living and working in space” and Musk’s dream of building a permanent civilisation on Mars.
Watch the full footage of the launch and landing test on YouTube or below:
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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