Jeff Bezos

First Private Rocket Goes to Space, Safely Lands on Earth

Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin company succeeds with its New Shepard Reusable Rocket

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That wonderful future of private sector rocketry we've all been dreaming of since our Heinleinian childhoods gets another successful step closer to fruition, as reported by Popular Science:

In an historic first, the private company founded by Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos has become the first to land a reuseable rocket that's traveled to and from space.

On November 23, 2015, Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launched 330,000 feet into the air. An unmanned crew capsule separated from the rocket on its way up, completing its own successful landing. Then the rocket grazed the lower reaches of space before returning to Earth and slowly touching down in a blaze of glory.

The company attempted a similar landing in April, but hydraulic problems prevented the rocket from achieving its vertical landing. Yesterday's achievement brings the industry closer to reusable–and hopefully cheaper–spaceflight.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has been trying, but so far failing, to pull off the same safe-landing part. Musk congratulated Bezos, but pointed out that what Musk is trying is a little more impressive, as New Shepard's max speed was Mach 3.72 compared to the SpaceX Falcon9 rocket's Mach 10, and:

While the New Shepard rocket is designed to reach sub-orbital space, SpaceX's Falcon 9 can get into orbital space–to deliver cargo shipments to the International Space Station, for instance– which it has done on several occasions. SpaceX also just last week received the second-in-history order from NASA for a private company to carry astronauts to the ISS in 2017 (the first was Boeing). New Shepard isn't quite there—yet.

Crewed flights aren't quite ready yet, but are the planned next step for Blue Origin after some research payloads planned for safe rocketing into space and return next year.

Rand Simberg wrote for Reason last year on Congressional attempts to legally slow down the rise of private space exploration.

A review by me in 2010 of a great Megan Prelinger book, Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962. 

A collection of Reason clips on private rocketry.

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  1. So, this isn’t rocket science.

    Good to know.

  2. “Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been trying, but so far failing, to pull off the same safe-landing part. Musk congratulated Bezos, but pointed out that what Musk is trying is a little more impressive:”

    Yeah. Elon you are trying to do the same thing using money stolen from the taxpayers, and failing terribly at it.

    1. You can check out the Space X launch page on Wikipedia. That doesn’t look like terrible failure.

  3. When’s Google going to get into the Space Race?

  4. BAE Systems’s SABRE hybrid jet-rocket engine is also some cool technology to watch.

    1. I’ve always thought the Skylon was an interesting idea. The only problem is it will require an extremely long runway. Unless it can take off and land from existing airport runways, I don’t see it reducing launch costs by as much as they’re hoping. Cool idea, though.

  5. Is this how they’re going to deliver the Dockers I ordered on Sunday? Because I’m going to have to tie down my deck chairs.

    1. Dockers? DOCKERS?

      1985 called! They’d like…themselves back!

    2. Dockets: casual wear for astronauts.

  6. Great, now we have to wait until all the rich kids join the 62.5 mile high club before somebody gets to work on my damn flying car! Where’s the flying cars?? You people in L.A. surely have the motivation… Grab one of these dot com millionaires and put a message in his ear. We need flying cars!

  7. Screw this lowball, cheap ass crap. We’ll never get anywhere thinking small. That poxy space station for a start is just garbage. What we really need is to just get a city block worth of steel and carbon, put it on a pusher plate and Orion-project it’s ass into orbit. That’ll get us the raw materials we need for a real orbital station.

    Or build a few atomic powered lasers down here and we can bypass chemical propulsion completely. – boost what we need up and keep it there.

  8. Whyinhell has it taken so long?

    McDonnell-Douglas did most of this over 20 years ago with the DC-X. Would have gotten a lot farther if NASA hadn’t gotten involved and trashed the project since it could have put their lovely shuttle out of business.

    Yeah, that’s a biased interpretation, and plays loose with the facts, but the core of truth remains.

    The other truth is, while landing on your fins “as god and Heinlein intended” is really cool, it wastes a huge amount of fuel unless you’ve used atmospheric braking to shed most of your speed already.

    Bitter? Me? Yeah…

  9. I just got paid $6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,

    http://www.OnlineCash9.Com

    1. But have you launched a vehicle into space working off your laptop this month?

  10. I’ve always thought the Skylon was an interesting idea. The only problem is it will require an extremely long runway. Unless it can take off and land from existing airport runways, I don’t see it reducing launch costs by as much as they’re hoping. Cool idea, though.

    A long runway is still pretty cheap and doable, compared to launch loops, space elevators, etc.

    It’s not like we need more than one (or maybe a handful, how many launch sites are currently used for space shipping?), set it up in NV. They can rent it out for land speed records when it’s not in use for launches.

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