Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has successfully test-launched –- and landed — its reusable New Shepard rocket.
It was the second test for the unmanned rocket, which flew to almost 330,000 feet before landing at a designated site in Texas. Last April, the New Shepard also launched and landed safely, but not at the targeted location.
Blue Origin staged the latest test launch Nov. 23 and announced the encouraging results a day later in a Bezos blog post. The Kent, Wash.-based company is among a handful in the space sector looking to develop reusable rockets capable of big payloads and even manned missions.
“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts — a used rocket,” Bezos said of the latest New Shepard test.
The billionaire entrepreneur, who founded online retailer Amazon, called the test “flawless.” He said the rocket flew through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a “gentle, controlled landing” 4 1/2 feet from the center of its landing pad.
Named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the rocket employs vertical takeoff and vertical landings, and is capable of carrying up to carry six astronauts.
“Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again,” Bezos said.
New Sheperd has two main parts: a crew capsule and a rocket booster utilizing an engine powered by liquid-hydrogen and liquid-oxygen.
Reusable rockets such as Blue Origin’s could substantially reduce the cost of space flights. Blue Origin aims to put the rocket into commercial use by mid-2016.
Elon Musk, founder of Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company SpaceX, tweeted congratulations to Bezos after the Blue Origin test launch and landing. Musk noted SpaceX has similar but distinct ambitions.
Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL on their booster
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015