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Bezos' Blue Origin Sends Rocket 100.5 km from Earth, Lands It

Dec 18, 2015 05:09 PM EST
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Creating workable rocketry is no easy feat, especially when it involves landing the rocket back in one piece.

But that's exactly what Blue Origin accomplished on Tuesday, November 24, sending its New Shepard rocket 100.5 kilometers from the Earth's surface, just passing the 100 kilometer-threshold where space begins.

Atop the rocket was a capsule designed to carry passengers into the lower reaches of space. After 11 minutes, the capsule returned to Earth with the aid of parachutes. The rocket utilized thrusters to return to Earth, landing less than five feet from its target.

The operation is significant because it marks a successful step in efforts to launch humans into space using reusable rocketry.

"Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts -- a used rocket," Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said in a press release.

"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 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 also noted in the release.

In April Blue Origin undertook a similar flight, but a failure in the hydraulic system caused the rocket to crash.

Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has been investing considerably in Blue Origin.

The company is currently selling space on Blue Origin's capsules for research experiments, which it plans to begin launching next year. Tourist flights, which would launch from west Texas, could commence in approximately two years. On such flights, tourists would float for about four minutes. Tickets have not been sold, nor has the cost of such flights been determined.

Private space flight company SpaceX has also attempted reusable rocketry, with mixed results. The company has taken steps to land its rockets on a platform in the Atlantic. The recent success of Blue Origin's attempt stands in contrast to some of SpaceX's more recent efforts, including its F9R demonstrator, which was destroyed in August 2014 at the company's testing site outside of McGregor, Texas.

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