Launch. Land. Repeat. The space race is on as Jeff Bezos successfully re-launched a rocket booster that had already landed on Earth.
The New Shepard originally took flight in November when Blue Origin launched the rocket a little over 100 kilometers into the air. The rocket landed safely in a vertical position at the company’s testing field in Texas. The rocket was the first to traverse the Karman line, the last frontier between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, and return vertically to the surface of the Earth.
Just one month later, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched and landed the Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Musk emphasized the difference between SpaceX and Blue Origin, saying that his company was in an entirely different league than Bezos’. Blue Origin has just reached the frontier of outer space; SpaceX has been delivering rockets into orbit for quite some time now.
While both companies are into different arenas, they are equally pushing the boundaries as to what is possible in regards to space travel.
New Shepard’s flights both went off without a hitch. A software upgrade between the first and second landing helped the rocket gain greater accuracy as it touched down on the pad. The rocket now prioritizes a smooth vertical landing as it nears its target, but will not make last-minute changes to reach the dead center of the landing pad.
Bezos plans to get a lot of use out of the New Shepard booster. He has several launch plans for the rocket in the coming year, and he has also announced that the BE-4 engine will see more action in 2016. While the two companies may not be directly competing with each other over the same goal, their desire to push boundaries and innovate will surely lead to some interesting headlines in the near future.
A press release from Jeff Bezos at Blue Origin describing the details of the recent launch can be found here.