Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin successfully landed its re-usable New Shepard spaceship from west Texas on Monday.
The rocket ship took off at 12:21 p.m. CST (1821 GMT) and reached an altitude of 62 miles (100 km) before landing upright upon its return to earth eight minutes later. The unit landed only 4.5ft (1.4m) off the centre from the original launch pad.
New Shepard is designed to blast off and land back to Earth vertically so that the unit can be used again.
New Shepard executed a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas.
In a blog post on the Blue Origin website Jeff Bezos said:
“Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.
This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.”
Blue Origin’s rival aerospace business SpaceX, created by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has also tried to land rockets upright too. SpaceX tried but failed to bring part of its Falcon 9 rocket down to a soft landing. SpaceX said it will not give up though.
Musk tweeted congratulations to Bezos and Blue Origin early Tuesday.
However, Musk noted that rockets must travel 10 times faster, and use 100 times the energy to reach the International Space Station than rockets that reach the edge of space – as New Shepard did.
It is, however, important to clear up the difference between “space” and “orbit”, as described well by https://t.co/7PD42m37fZ
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
The success in landing part of a rocket without destroying it could cut launch costs considerably in the future.
“We are building Blue Origin to seed an enduring human presence in space, to help us move beyond this blue planet that is the origin of all we know. We are pursuing this vision patiently, step-by-step. Our fantastic team in Kent, Van Horn and Cape Canaveral is working hard not just to build space vehicles, but to bring closer the day when millions of people can live and work in space.”
Blue Origin aims to one day carry astronauts, including tourists, into space. The company is already letting people who are interested sign up, however, there has been no word on how much the trip will cost or when it will happen.