We’ve heard so much about SpaceX’s failed Falcon 9 rocket landings – not to mention the explosion mid-flight on the way to the International Space Station in June – that it’s easy to forget that they’re not the only game in town.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for example, runs his own privately-funded aerospace outfit by the name of Blue Origin. His company recently succeeded in the very area that Elon Musk’s SpaceX has struggled so much with – safely landing a spent rocket.
Blue Origin on Tuesday said its New Shepard flew a test mission to an altitude of 330,000 – reaching nearly four times the speed of sound in the process – before both the rocket and its unmanned capsule returned for a safe landing.
As The Wall Street Journal notes, the rocket landed just four feet from where it took off at in West Texas. It let gravity take over until about 5,000 feet when the engine reignited to help with the landing. It touched down in an upright position traveling at a speed of 4.4 miles per hour – about the average walking speed.
Companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are in a race to create the first reusable commercial rocket. Such a luxury would drastically reduce the cost of space travel, thus making it more financially feasible to fund resupply missions to the ISS, launch satellites and create a commercial space tourism business.
Image courtesy Phelan M. Ebenhack, Associated Press