Blue Origin, the nascent space-launch firm, enjoyed a milestone achievement yesterday when its New Shepard booster lofted a capsule to 330,000 feet and then returned to its launch site in an autonomous, on-target vertical descent. This is a big leap forward toward reusable rockets that will carry humans and cargo to the edges of space and beyond at a fundamentally lower price-point per pound thanks to the recycle-ability of the booster and its main engines.
Blue Origin is the creation of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.
Fellow technologist and featurist, Elon Musk, has been attempting to achieve the same feat but with much larger and more powerful Falcon 9.X boosters capable of pushing people and packages to altitudes at or above Low Earth Orbit. So far, the Falcon 9, a product of SpaceX, has come close (but no cigar) to successfully sticking a vertical landing after reaching the edge of space. There’s next to no doubt that SpaceX will see that goal achieved in the next year or two.
All of this is good and demonstrates one of the key advantages of inviting tech entrepreneurs into the competition to deliver new, lower-cost modes for getting to space.
Next up for SpaceX and Blue Origin: getting Human Space Flight ratings for their respective pressurized space capsules.
Now, check out this video of Blue Origin’s New Shepard getting it done!