History in Texas.
Blue Origin on Tuesday announced that its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reached its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet and then executed a historic landing back at the West Texas launch site.
"Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts — a used rocket," Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, said in a statement on the company's website. "Blue Origin's reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission — soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119 mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just 4 1/2 feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game-changer, and we can’t wait it fuel up and fly again."
- FLIGHT DETAILS
- Launched at 11:21 a.m. Central Time on Nov. 23, 2015
- Apogee of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) for the crew capsule
- Mach 3.72
- Re-ignition of rocket booster at 4,896 feet above ground level
- Controlled vertical landing of the booster at 4.4 mph
- Deployment of crew capsule drogue parachutes at 20,045 feet above ground level
- Landing of the crew capsule under parachutes at 11:32 a.m. Central Time
Blue Origin made their flight in a shroud of secrecy. The New Shepard capsule and single booster soared at three times the speed of sound, then made a controlled landing back on the pad at a mere four miles per hour.
"To go to that altitude, bring it back, stick a landing like that, is something a lot of people have been trying to do. And no one has done it like that," said Dale Ketcham of Space Florida.
Named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the New Shepard vehicle will eventually carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, which is the internationally recognized boundary of space.
The vehicle features two elements — a crew capsule in which the astronauts ride and a rocket booster powered by a single American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine.
At liftoff, the BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust. During ascent, astronauts experience three times the force of gravity as the spacecraft accelerates through the atmosphere.
Bezos later called this one of the best days of his life.
A big part of this effort is reusability -- which will drastically cut down on the cost of going to space to the tune of millions of dollars per mission.
A quest for commercial space ventures to become reliable, cheaper and safe for people and cargo to head to low Earth orbit -- while NASA explores deep space.
lue Origin beats fellow private company SpaceX to the punch. That company's CEO and founder, Elon Musk, and team had attempted unsuccessful booster landings on an ocean barge during missions launched from the Space Coast -- which are much more difficult due to payloads on board requiring much more thrust.
"I don't think anyone doesn't have the confidence they are going to eventually succeed," adds Ketcham.
Bezos says despite this flawless flight and landing, they are looking at improvements.
Another attempt is expected in a number of weeks.
Blue Origin announced back in September it will base its Florida operations at Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral AFS.
The company is expected to build and launch its reusable rockets later this decade.
Blue Origin's fully reusable New Shepard space vehicle rolls out to the launch pad at the company's West Texas launch site. (Blue Origin)