Credit: Blue Origin

Credit: Blue Origin

Blue Origin has announced a “historic” rocket landing. Its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space November 23, reaching a planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a landing back at the company’s spaceport in West Texas.

Chief rocketeer, Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and leader, proclaimed that Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle “flew a flawless mission,” and then returned through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad.

“Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again,” Bezos said in a press statement.

Future plans call for New Shepard — named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, to carry six astronauts to altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally-recognized boundary of space.

Reusable vehicle

The New Shepard space vehicle is fully reusable and operated from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site near Van Horn, Texas.

The vehicle is comprised of 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.

Back on Earth - the New Shepard. Credit: Blue Origin

Back on Earth – the New Shepard.
Credit: Blue Origin

Flight Details

  • Launched at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, November 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

Validation of vehicle

In a Bezos blog, the rocket and entrepreneurial mogul wrote that the flight validates the vehicle’s architecture and design.

 The Blue Origin team celebrates with founder Jeff Bezos at the site of the New Shepard rocket booster landing. Credit: Blue Origin

The Blue Origin team celebrates with founder Jeff Bezos at the site of the New Shepard rocket booster landing.
Credit: Blue Origin

The vehicle’s 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 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.

“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,” Bezos notes. The Blue Origin team “is working hard not just to build space vehicles, but to bring closer the day when millions of people can live and work in space.”

Another rocketeer, who has had his ups and downs, Elon Musk of SpaceX has twittered: “Congrats to Jeff Bezos and the BO [Blue Origin] team for achieving VTOL [Vertical Takeoff and Landing) on their booster.”

But Musk adds: “It is, however, important to clear up the difference between ‘space’ and ‘orbit’…”

To watch Blue Origin’s milestone making flight, go to:

4 Responses to “Blue Origin: Milestone Making Flight, Landing”

  • Mike says:

    This is a great accomplishment. Congrats to everyone at Blue Origin. These are the steps that a future space faring civilization are built on. Well done indeed.

  • john franklin says:

    we in New Mexico are waiting for a virgin to conceive at our deserted space port. Thanks Bill R.

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