Blue Origin, a private space company, announced Tuesday its New Shepard reusable rocket successfully flew 100.5 kilometers into space and returned to its launch site.
This is the first successful launch into space and subsequent landing of a reusable rocket. Reusable rockets are considered a major advance by the rocket and space industry as spaceflight cost lies not in the fuel, but rather the rocket components.
“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” announced Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, in a statement.
Blue Origin has been competing with other companies, like SpaceX, to develop the first fully reusable rocket. SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, has failed on two separate occasions to successfully land a reusable rocket. In the United States, “space” begins at 80.4km (50 miles), or 264,000 feet, so Blue Origin landed a reusable rocket after officially going to space. This is technically simpler than sending a rocket all the way into orbit, then returning to Earth, but still remains a major technical achievement.
Even the Space Shuttle was only technically reusable because its giant fuel tank was discarded after each launch, and its side boosters were parachuted into corrosive salt water every flight, which required them to be extensively refurbished after use, making the Space Shuttle exceedingly expensive.
The company said New Shepard performed the flight before noon on Monday. Blue Origin is already opening up “early access” to ticket information for potential space tourists.
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