Blue Origin launches and lands sub-orbital rocket for second time

Blue Origin, the space transport venture set up by Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has launched and landed a sub-orbital rocket for the second time, an achievement hailed as a significant development in the company’s drive to develop reusable rockets.

Blue Origin posted a video of the New Shepard rocket’s launch and return to the launchpad in west Texas on Friday morning.

Blue Origin rocket launch Photograph:

The spacecraft, which is designed to carry six passengers, reached a height of 333,582 ft (63 miles) before coming back to earth and landing itself a few minutes later. It was the same vehicle that made a successful test launch and landing two months ago, Bezos said.

“I’m a huge fan of rocket-powered vertical landing,” he wrote on the Blue Origin website. “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 [system] scales extraordinarily well.”

Last month Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully returned a rocket to a landing pad in Florida after it blasted off on a satellite-delivery mission. Last Sunday SpaceX attempted to land a rocket on a platform floating in the Pacific Ocean, but one of the booster’s four landing legs gave way and the rocket keeled over and exploded.

Blue Origin and SpaceX are among a handful of companies working to develop rockets that can fly themselves back to Earth so they can be refurbished and flown again, potentially slashing launch costs.

Blue Origin is flying only suborbital rockets, which are not fast enough to put spacecraft into orbit around Earth. It is developing a more powerful rocket engine, with testing expected to begin this year, Bezos said.

“We’re already more than three years into development of our first orbital vehicle. Though it will be the small vehicle in our orbital family, it’s still many times larger than New Shepard,” he wrote.

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