Landing of the brave
To blue Origin for pulling off the impossible task of landing a rocket back on earth.
Amazon boss and space pioneer scored a historic technical achievement on Monday when his secretive Blue Origin space-travel company successfully sent a rocket 62 miles into space and then, in a carefully controlled descent, landed it upright only 41/2 feet from the centre of its launch pad.
Blue Origin released the news of its feat, complete with dramatic video of the lift-off and landing at its remote test launch site in Van Horn, Texas, a day after it happened.
The New Shepard rocket — named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space — delivered an empty crew capsule into space. The capsule, using parachutes, also landed safely 11 minutes after lift-off which is a bold step in the whole things way people look at rockets now.
But it was the controlled return of the launch rocket that was a first. Until now, space rockets have been expendable — used once, then allowed to fall into the ocean.
“Not anymore,” Bezos wrote in a blog post. “Now, safely tucked away at our launch site in west Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.”
Blue Origin tried to achieve this on its initial test flight in April, but failed when a hydraulic system malfunctioned.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has come close three times but hasn’t succeeded.
Blue Origin’s rocket used a unique ring fin to shift the center of pressure aft to help control re-entry and descent and eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph.
Then, hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119 mph high-altitude crosswinds to a precise location 5,000 feet above the landing pad. At that point, the rocket’s engine reignited to slow it as the landing gear deployed.
New Shepard descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touch down on the launch pad.
“I believe this is a new Golden Age of space exploration. The first Golden Age was the ’60s. We have been treading water for a long time,” Bezos said.
Describing the planned trajectory for his New Shepard project in some detail for the first time on Tuesday, Bezos said Blue Origin’s schedule will be “step-by-step, very methodical” and will take a human crew into space “when we’re ready and not before.”
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