In this photo provided by Blue Origin taken on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, an unmanned Blue Origin rocket blasts off in West Texas. (Blue Origin via AP)
Reusable rocket returns upright
December 01, 2015
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A private space company has said that it landed a rocket upright. It landed gently enough to be used again. It is a milestone in commercial aeronautics.
Reusing rockets would be a big step toward making space flight less costly. That is instead of throwing them away.
The feat produced "the rarest of beasts: a used rocket," said Jeff Bezos in a statement. He is founder of the company Blue Origin. He also is the CEO of Amazon.com Inc.
Another private company, SpaceX, has tried to land boosters upright on a barge in the ocean. So far, it has failed. The company has recorded soft landings on the ground by rockets that flew less than a mile high. That is an altitude far lower than what the new test reached.
Blue Origin said the unmanned flight took place in November. It was at its site in Van Horn in West Texas. The secretive company is based in Kent, Washington. The company did not invite reporters to attend. Its first test flight happened in April.
Its New Shepard vehicle consists of a capsule. It is designed to take people into space for suborbital flights someday. It also has a booster. In this flight, the booster soared about 62 miles high. Then it released the capsule. It parachuted to the ground.
After the separation, the booster began falling back to Earth. It slowed its fall by firing its engine. The engine was started at about 4,900 feet above ground. It was falling at just 4.4 mph when it touched down at the launch site. The rocket was still standing up, the company said.
"It is really a major step forward toward reusability," said John M. Logsdon. He is professor emeritus at the George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. NASA space shuttles are also reusable after returning to Earth safely. But, they were far more costly than rockets, he noted.
"The goal here is low-cost reusability," Logsdon said.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is a reusable rocket both rare and desirable?
Write your answers in the comments section below