Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s private spaceflight company Blue Origin launched a rocket to space and it landed back on Earth in one piece. The company was the first to ever do it successfully.
On Monday, Blue Origin–the company Bezos has been investing his wealth in to accomplish some space dreams–launched its New Shepard rocket 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) above its launch site in West Texas. It reached just above the 100-kilometer altitude, which is said to be the start of outer space, according to The New York Times.
After the rocket successfully landed, Bezos wrote in a blog post that “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,” he added.
He called the flight “totally nominal” in an interview. “We’re walking on cloud 9. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
This successful launch-and-land operation follows a successful test flight in April. In that test flight, both the launch and landing were great but the rocket crashed due to a hydraulic system in place at the time. Bezos said engineers replaced hydraulics with a new design.
“Think of this as the beginning of a thorough test program,” Bezos said. He said the next flight “should be a matter of weeks.”
This is huge for Blue Origin, which said the test flight “validates” its vehicle architecture and design, according to PC Magazine.
“We are building Blue Origin to seed an enduring human presence in space, to help us move beyond this blue planet that is the origin of all we know,” Bezos wrote in a blog post. “We are pursuing this vision patiently, step-by-step.”
The New Shepard–named after Alan Shepard–is composed of two major parts: a crew capsule intended to hold astronauts and a rocket booster with an American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine, PC reported. After their test program is completed, Blue Origin is planning to launch astronaut flights.
The idea of the New Shepard is to carry six astronauts at a time to altitudes higher than 320,000 feet. Once the powered flight makes it to space, the crew capsule will separate from the booster and float, giving astronauts “several minutes of weightlessness.”
The crew capsule will return to Earth with the help of three parachute as the booster descends to the landing pad.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working toward a similar goal for a while now but hasn’t been as successful. Musk used Twitter to congratulate Bezos on his success. However, he noted the “difference between ‘space’ and ‘orbit.'”
So what does that mean exactly?
Space.com explained that Blue Origin will be providing suborbital space tourism and a microgravity science laboratory. “Suborbital means the vehicle can fly only to a lower altitude than is necessary to start orbiting the Earth–it would have to travel higher, and faster, to reach altitudes achieved by orbiting satellites or the International Space Station, for example,” Space.com said.
“Jeff may be unaware SpaceX suborbital VTOL [vertical take-off and landing] flight began 2013. Orbital water landing 2014. Orbital land landing next,” Musk tweeted.
Want to see the rocket land? Watch this video: