Bezos space firm duplicates reusable rocket breakthrough

January 23, 2016
Blue Origin, said that the same New Shepard booster which blasted off and landed in November had repeated the feat, hitting an a
Blue Origin, said that the same New Shepard booster which blasted off and landed in November had repeated the feat, hitting an altitude of 333,000 feet (101 kilometers) before "gently" returning to Earth

Two months after the breakthrough launch and vertical landing of a reusable rocket, the space firm created by Internet entrepreneur Jeff Bezos did it again.

The company, Blue Origin, said Saturday that the same New Shepard booster which blasted off and landed in November had repeated the feat, hitting an altitude of 333,000 feet (101 kilometers) before "gently" returning to Earth.

A video released by Blue Origin showed the launch and landing from the Texas site, with the rocket slowed to three miles per hour (five kilometers per hour) on its descent with the assistance of parachutes.

The breakthroughs by Blue Origin and parallel efforts by rival Internet mogul Elon Musk's SpaceX open up the potential for cutting costs for and making rockets as reusable as airplanes.

In November, Bezos called the accomplishment a "game changer" which opens the door to lower costs in space travel and his vision of people living and working in space.

Bezos, who founded online giant Amazon and also owns The Washington Post newspaper, said in a statement Saturday that Blue Origin has solved the problem of balancing to keep the rocket in an upright position as it lands.

"I'm a huge fan of rocket-powered vertical landing," he said in the statement.

"Why? Because to achieve our vision of millions of people living and working in space we will need to build very large rocket boosters. And the vertical landing architecture scales extraordinarily well.

"When you do a vertical landing, you're solving the classic inverted pendulum problem, and the inverted pendulum problem gets a bit easier as the pendulum gets a bit bigger."

SpaceX in December managed a similar feat for the first time with its Falcon 9 rocket.

Previous attempts to land the Falcon 9's first stage on a floating ocean platform had failed—with the either colliding with the autonomous drone ship or tipping over.

Explore further: Bezos space firm claims reusable rocket breakthrough (Update)

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AGreatWhopper
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 23, 2016
Typical. Any liquid I carry on a plane is deemed a threat to all aboard, but a raging sociopath is asked no questions when he occupies the high ground of space.

big_hairy_jimbo
5 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2016
Isn't it only an inverted pendulum because they haven't jettisoned another stage?? Surely the engine and fuel are the heaviest parts IF you have jettisoned an upper stage and most of that weight should be at the bottom of the rocket. Yeah I realise fuel and oxidizer may be in separate tanks therefore distributed within the rocket, but still I would have thought the centre of mass would be closer to the bottom than top.
But, they are probably still focussing on joy rides, and not orbital insertion. Don't know how the article can talk about working in space etc, when they don't reach orbital velocity.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2016
Isn't it only an inverted pendulum because they haven't jettisoned another stage?? Surely the engine and fuel are the heaviest parts IF you have jettisoned an upper stage and most of that weight should be at the bottom of the rocket. Yeah I realise fuel and oxidizer may be in separate tanks therefore distributed within the rocket, but still I would have thought the centre of mass would be closer to the bottom than top.
But, they are probably still focussing on joy rides, and not orbital insertion. Don't know how the article can talk about working in space etc, when they don't reach orbital velocity.

Dammit Jim - I'm an artist not a rocket scientist...:-)
I'm pretty sure your assessments are being addressed by the engineers of space exploration companies. That said, it's gonna take a few "tweaks" to get to the point of "really useful workhorse" status. I can't wait...:-)
baudrunner
5 / 5 (7) Jan 23, 2016
Operative words are, "the same New Shepard". Well done.
PhotonX
5 / 5 (5) Jan 23, 2016
Operative words are, "the same New Shepard". Well done.
Indeed. While it may not have boosted a load to space, it was a genuine recycling of equipment. Now, about that usable payload to space thing....
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Jan 24, 2016
Surely the engine and fuel are the heaviest parts IF you have jettisoned an upper stage and most of that weight should be at the bottom of the rocket.


It's an inverted pendulum because it's supported from its lowest point - not because of how the mass is distributed. A regular pendulum hangs down, an inverted pendulum points up.

As far as inverted pendulums go, they're actually harder to control when the mass it at the bottom than when it's up top, because you're trying to shift the supporting point relative to the center of mass to lean one way or the other. When the center of mass is low, you basically have no leverage to turn with and the top flops about uncontrollably. You have to make larger corrections to keep the top steady, and it's easier to fall out of balance completely.

Operative words are, "the same New Shepard". Well done.


Indeed. SpaceX put their first successfully landed rocket on a plinth and didn't even try to fly it again.
Steelwolf
5 / 5 (1) Jan 24, 2016
This is very much a milestone, being able to launch and land a rocket AGAIN, one that had already been launched and retrieved, reset and re-lauched is a HUGE achievement in this present set of allowed tech.

With being able to reuse, rather than single launch, throw away rockets, it will bring down the price of this type of launch. The idea of rail-gun style launch for non-manned equipment may be something to look at again, especially if we are going to start a new push towards the outer planets. It would serve as a reasonably cheap and effective way to put heavy masses into orbit without using chemical energy, or near as much of it. Mostly just steering jets and orbit-matching burn equipment.
KBK
not rated yet Jan 24, 2016
If Elon had managed to find a way to land on solid ground on the second attempt, there are high odds that spaceX would have done it a second time.

This, with functional orbital insertion rockets, that have had actual usable payloads on them, prior to the landing attempts. Wholly 'real world' situations.

A huge difference, IMO.
baudrunner
not rated yet Jan 24, 2016
All of which points to the software as being the Achilles' heel. Subscribers to Blue Horizons updates received a debriefing from Jeff Bezos which included the statement
The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including a noteworthy one.
baudrunner
not rated yet Jan 24, 2016
Mr. Bezos is acquiring some considerable credibility here. He could conceivably corner the space tourism market by finding a way to offer space tourists a couple of orbits in space while they're up there. It would extend their space visit by an hour and a half, and leave them with a profound satisfaction that they would not receive by just going up and parachuting back down. That's a pretty expensive midway ride. He could probably make a great bid for Branson's fancy space port if he succeeds. Of course, I don't know him personally, but I imagine Branson would probably lease the launching rights from there before he gives that up. Airports make money, why not space ports?

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