Is that a reusable rocket in your pocket? Or are you just happy to watch two Silicon Valley billionaires push each other ever further into space as they hone their respective aerospace technology companies?
Blue Origin, led by Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon), has successfully reused its New Shepard rocket after sending it out into space and landing it back on terra firm again in November. This is an important step for Blue Origin, as well as space exploration in general, because it stands as proof that reusable rockets can work, and may soon significantly reduce the cost of getting to space — rocket science is hard and expensive after all.
The New Shepard rocket accomplished its mission by blasting off from Blue Origin’s test site in West Texas, soaring away from Earth until it reached the Karman line (the line that tells us where our sky stops, about 62 miles above Earth’s sea level). It then returned back to Earth in two separate pieces: the booster and the capsule (as shown in the diagram above).
While this is all certainly impressive, and exciting for the future of space travel, Blue Origin’s feats in space have, so far, only been suborbital. SpaceX, on the other hand, landed its Falcon 9 rocket back on Earth after its mission to deliver satellites into orbit in December. The Falcon 9, as SpaceX (and Tesla) CEO Elon Musk pointed out via Twitter, requires 100 times the energy the New Shepard does. Musk and Bezos have also been in somewhat of a contest in terms of aerospace advancements, seemingly one-upping each other, as well as sharing backhanded praise via twitter:
Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO team for achieving VTOL on their booster
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 24, 2015
Although the New Shepard is “only” a suborbital reusable rocket, Blue Origin is evolving quickly, and Bezos says the company is “already more than three years into development of [its] first orbital vehicle.”
Regardless of the competition between the two companies and their iconic CEOs, it’s exciting to see spacecraft technology move to the fore. The goals of the two companies coincide — Blue Origin wants to advance space tourism, and SpaceX wants to go to Mars. Both involve making spaceflight more accessible. All we know is that a trip aboard a rocket that could cost as much as a planet ticket is the kind of future we want.
What do you think about Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard rocket? Do you think the competition between Bezos and Musk is healthy competition that will benefit us all, or just petty squabbling among the super wealthy? Let us know in the comments section below!
HT: Popular Science
Images: Blue Origin