New Shepard, a suborbital spacecraft developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, will receive this year’s Robert J. Collier trophy from the National Aeronautic Association.
NAA chose the spacecraft for the award “for successfully demonstrating rocket booster reusability (through) five successful test flights of a single booster and engine.”
The New Shepard awaits an as-yet unscheduled inaugural commercial mission following extensive testing.
The Collier Trophy is awarded annually for achievement in the preceding year in the area of spacecraft or aircraft performance and safety. New Shepard is named for the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard.
The NAA’s choice of the Blue Origin craft comes as Kent, Wash.-based Blue Origin competes against SpaceX and other fledgling spaceflight companies for contracts and kudos, while New Space companies generally also knock heads with traditional space contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin and others.
News of the NAA’s choice of New Shepard for the award circulated simultaneously with SpaceX’s successful launch on March 30 of a commercial satellite employing a used booster stage, marking the first time ever a previously used rocket has powered a commercial launch.
The Collier Trophy will be formally awarded at a dinner gala later this spring at location yet to be selected.
“Blue Origin’s New Shepard program is remarkable,” NAA chairman Jim Albaugh said. “Developing the first new large liquid hydrogen rocket engine in almost 20 years and demonstrating repeatable vertical takeoffs and landings makes the long sought after goal of low-cost reusable rockets and access to space a reality.”
Said Bezos: “Winning the Collier Trophy is incredibly emotional for me and the whole Blue Origin team. Everyone on the team has given so much to get to this point, and we are deeply encouraged by this recognition. We will never stop working to drive down the cost of getting to space.”
A deep-space probe team from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., were the most recent previous winners of the Collier Trophy.