The private space company run by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos completed its fourth successful unmanned rocket launch and safe landing in West Texas on Sunday, using the same vehicle.
The latest New Shepard mission took off on Sunday morning near Van Horn, and was the first time Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, aired a live video of the launch and landing. The rocket landed upright, with Bezos tweeting: “Successful mission.”
Its last launch and landing was on 2 April, in a private test, and before then on 22 January and 23 November.
New Shepard consists of a capsule designed to take people into space for suborbital flights, along with a booster. The rocket travels 62 miles to the boundary of space, and Bezos hopes to deliver tourists there in 2018.
Another tech billionaire, Elon Musk, also runs a private spaceflight company that has successfully launched and landed rockets. His company, SpaceX, first landed its 23-story rocket on land in December 2015, after several spectacular fails to land it on a robotic barge – far away from humans and a fuel-saving landing pad.
The company managed to land the rocket on the barge in April, and has since repeated the feat. Musk has said he hopes reusable rockets will revolutionize spaceflight by vastly reducing its cost, and that he is planning for an unmanned mission to Mars in 2018.
Blue Origin and SpaceX have designed their rockets to very different ends: Bezos’ smaller vehicle is meant for passengers and reaches a velocity of Mach 3, while Musk’s rockets deliver payloads to the International Space Station and reaches Mach 5.5 and 7.5 speeds. But the billionaires have nevertheless struck up a kind of competition in the burgeoning business of private spaceflight.