Space Tourism Nears As Reusable Rocket Lands
Stunning new video shows a Blue Origin rocket blasting off from a launchpad in Texas and travelling to the edge of space – before landing serenely back on the same spot.
It is the third successful attempt by the space firm backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and brings space tourism a step closer.
By showing that reusable rockets are a realistic option, the potential costs of sending tourists into orbit could be substantially cut.
Saturday’s blast-off by New Shepard is a hat-trick for the pioneering company – it was the third time in just over four months that a spent rocket has landed safely back on Earth.
The third test was designed to be harder than previous attempts, with the control team waiting until almost the last second to restart the main engine to slow the booster for touchdown.
Afterwards, billionaire Mr Bezos tweeted: “Flawless BE-3 restart and perfect booster landing.”
It is a public relations boost for Mr Bezos, who is seen as being in a rivalry with Elon Musk and his Space X operation.
The engine fired up at an altitude of about 3,600ft, just six seconds before the booster would have smashed into the ground.
Mr Bezos says the New Shepard could start taking tourists on sub-orbital trips by 2018.
He has previously criticised the assumption that rocket boosters could only be used once, saying: “We’re still building these big rockets, we use them one time and then throw them away. That drives the cost up so much.”
Many experts believe that reliable recovery and reuse of boosters could seal the business case for space tourism.