Space

Blue Origin makes historic second landing using the same rocket

The New Shepard rocket was the same one used in Blue Origin's first powered landing flight in November
The New Shepard rocket was the same one used in Blue Origin's first powered landing flight in November
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The New Shepard rocket was the same one used in Blue Origin's first powered landing flight in November
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The New Shepard rocket was the same one used in Blue Origin's first powered landing flight in November

SpaceX isn't the only private company racking up space firsts. Having successfully flown to space and completed a powered landing last November, Blue Origin's New Shepard booster on Friday became the first rocket to repeat the feat. According to Blue Origin founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the single stage rocket lifted from its West Texas launch site, flew straight up to an altitude of 333,582 ft (101.7 km), which is past the Karman line that designates the official beginning of space, then descended for an autonomous powered landing.

Building on lessons learned from New Shepard's previous landing, the rocket's autonomous piloting system was tweaked to favor a more stable landing over a precision touchdown. While it initially tries to land on the exact center of the target, it is programed to tolerate a certain amount of drift – much in the same way as a pilot prioritizes touching down safely on the runway rather than lurching at the last second to center the white line.

"I'm a huge fan of rocket-powered vertical landing," writes Bezos. "Why? Because — to achieve our vision of millions of people living and working in space — we will need to build very large rocket boosters. And the vertical landing architecture scales extraordinarily well. When you do a vertical landing, you're solving the classic inverted pendulum problem, and the inverted pendulum problem gets a bit easier as the pendulum gets a bit bigger."

That bigger pendulum will be a family of orbital launch vehicles much larger than New Shepard. Bezos says the that details of the first, and smallest, of these will be released this year.

The coming year will also see the company begin full-scale testing of the BE-4 engine and conduct more New Shepard landings.

Source: Blue Origin

Launch. Land. Repeat.

6 comments
Nostromo47
How cool is that?! The booster "only" launched a suborbital mission, but still, it was first to do a repeat launch thus demonstrating reusability. The SpaceX boosters are intended to demonstrate reusability on missions that actually launch payloads into orbit. In future launches of the Blue Origin rocket, will the cargo capsule be kept attached the booster and make the landing with to the booster? For future passengers, such a rocket landing would be tremendous!
Stephen N Russell
why cant Space X do this?? reuse same booster?
StevenK.Carter
Competition and cooperation are the two great drivers of civilization. With Blue Origin, SpaceX and others vying for lucrative space contracts the technology involved is pushing those exploits to higher and higher levels. The cost effectiveness of reusable space craft is undeniable and its eventual perfection assures an accelerated man based return to space and shortly to the moon, Mars and beyond. Congratulations to all the competitors and may you continue to experience great success.
jerryd
Sorry but hardly the first. If no others the moon lander prototypes did in their test phase back in the late 60's. And let's remember until it can launch actual products to space it means little. I think the ocean swell on SpaceX barge is just too much as looking at the vid at the horizon is 15deg in 10 seconds. For a tall object trying to balance on such a small base is going to tip. I use to work on sailboat masts and it doesn't take much to whip you around at 40', much less the 100'? this rocket it.
JohnDavidHanna
Very nice rocket, very nice landing!
habakak
Congrats and awesome job. A very good test run. It's still early days, but things are getting better. More competition is good. @ JerryD, landing a craft and taking off on the Moon deals with an entirely different set of issue than landing a craft on earth (and it way easier than doing it on earth). Did those crafts that landed and took off from the Moon, also land on earth afterwards? I didn't think so.
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