Blue Origin pulled off a spaceflight hat trick today as its New Shepard rocket completed its third powered landing. In a series of tweets, company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos confirmed the third flight of the reusable booster from its test site in Texas. The rocket flew to an altitude of 339,178 feet (103 km) before releasing its unmanned Crew Capsule, which returned to Earth using parachutes.
Today's flight marks the third time in a row that the same New Shepard rocket has flown, then made a powered landing. According to Bezos, the very low altitude flight was designed to test the ability of the engines to restart quickly and at high thrust. Failure to do so would have resulted in a ground impact within six seconds.
Bezos added that the flight included a test of an improved algorithm for the Reaction Control System (RCS), which steers the Crew Capsule after separation. In his tweets, he said that the New Shepard performed "flawlessly" and that the capsule parachutes deployed properly and brought the craft down safely.
Inside the Crew Capsule were two zero gravity experiments from the Southwest Research Institute and the University of Central Florida. The former provided the Box Of Rocks Experiment (BORE), which observed how rocky soil on asteroids might perform, while the latter created the Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE) that is intended to study the impacts of objects on dust in low gravity.
Blue Origin says that the flight was recorded by aerial drones and that the company will provide videos of the event once they've been processed.
The two videos below outline the flight experiments.
Source: Blue Origin
Update: This story originally stated that the rocket had reached an altitude of 3,600 ft. This was actually the altitude of the engine restart. We apologize for the error, which has been corrected.