December 27 – ETA how I can’t get the name of Jeff Bezos’ space company right. While you could argue that’s due to SpaceX taking most of the ink in the private spaceflight press, that’s far from a good excuse. I regret any confusion caused by my errors.
Yesterday Blue Origin
Horizon, a rocket company led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, accomplished a major feat yesterday when it successfully landed the rocket from its New Shepard space vehicle. The rocket was launched to a height of 100.5 kilometers and returned safely, sticking its landing. The crew capsule separated successfully and landed via parachute.
Sticking the rocket landing has been the trouble for SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket. While the Falcon 9 has had trouble with the landing, it has also flown higher than the New Shepard rocket did this week. Falcon 9 rockets have delivered cargo to the International Space Station several times, and the first stage (what SpaceX seeks to recover) travels twice as high as the New Shepard did. The New Shepard rocket is not designed to go into orbit, and takes a more compact shape compared to the Falcon 9. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk compared the New Shepard rocket to the SpaceX Grasshopper test vehicle, which has made 6 successful launches and landings.
While the difference between a sub-orbital (New Shepard) and orbital (Falcon 9) rocket is significant, it is not enough (in my opinion) to completely dismiss what Blue Origin
Horizon has done. SpaceX has been innovative and done a lot to shake up the launch business. Having another private company in its metaphorical rear-view window should be a good thing, assuming nobody approaches this from a zero-sum perspective.
Either way, the next Falcon 9 recovery mission will be under a little more pressure.