Blue Origin lands first stage rocket vertically

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The competition heats up: Yesterday Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin did its second test flight of its New Shepard suborbital rocket and capsule, and successfully recovered the rocket’s first stage, landing the stage vertically using its rockets.

As Jeff Bezos wrote at the link:

Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.

This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.

When you watch the video you’ll see that we took the liberty of engineering all the drama out of the landing.

I have posted video of the flight below the fold.

SpaceX has been attempting this with its orbital Falcon 9 rocket for the last two years. They have come very close, hitting their target and almost landing. They plan to try again in December. Blue Origin however has beaten them to it, even if they have done it with a suborbital rocket.This demonstrates unequivocally that the concept is sound and that a rocket’s first stage can be recovered. It also demonstrates that of all the rocket companies in the world, SpaceX and Blue Origin are in position to dominate for at least the next decade. I am very confident that SpaceX will succeed in its efforts to recover its first stage. I am also very confident that Blue Origin’s plans to upgrade New Shepard into an orbital rocket/capsule will proceed quickly.

In both cases, the companies will then move forward, capable of recovering and reusing significant parts of their rockets, thus making it possible to significantly lower the launch cost and thus charge their customers less. No one else is in this position, or even close to it. The launch market will belong to them.


  • Pzatchok

    Not bad but will they be forced to land on a barge like Space X and will they be able to do it?

  • wodun

    Was this launch higher than SpaceX’s Grasshopper tests?

  • mivenho

    Additionally, if Blue Origin successfully begins shuttling average Joes to space, it will help to build interest in space flight among the general public (and their legislators), and demonstrate to them that non-governmental organizations really can do this. That is also good for SpaceX.

  • Wodun

    Guess I should have just more.

    Very exciting.

  • Edward

    This is exciting news, and will put additional pressure on ULA, Areanespace, and other launch providers to make fully reusable boosters.

    Blue Origin may seem like it came out of the blue (yes, that is a terrible pun), but it has been secretive in its progress for many years. This is the opposite of several other launch providers, such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, who seem to be interested in generating excitement about their services. This decade and the next decade will be the most exciting decades for rocketry since the 1950s and 1960s.

    in the 1960s, there were dreams, ideas, and plans to do great things in space. With these new low-cost launch services, similar dreams could become reality in the next three decades. These are the exciting times for the space business that I wish we had when I first got into the business. These may inspire new generations into going into the space business, just as the Apollo missions did to my generation (which includes Besos, Musk, Branson, and Diamandis — whose X-Prize I consider to be a major motivator in creating reusable space hardware).

    It seems, though, that there is far more interest in space projects than there is ability to create viable business plans:

  • pzatchok

    This rocket is not designed or intended to reach orbit.

    Its just a pogo ship used to take passengers up for a zero G ride.

    It goes half as fast as SpaceX and half as high.

    But for what it was designed to do I can see it doing it very well and maybe even making a profit.

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