SpaceX recently attempted another sea landing of its Falcon 9 rocket, and unfortunately one of the landing legs failed to lock, causing the rocket to tip catastrophically. The mission was not a failure, as the rocket had already successfully deployed the Jason-3 satellite for the ongoing U.S.-European missions to map the surface of the oceans.
But it ended this week on a higher note. The company tested 8 SuperDraco thrusters in its Dragon 2 capsule (H/T Gizmodo). The Dragon 2 would carry crew and be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket. The test is part of the long certification process for allowing the Dragon 2 to carry crew safely.
However, Blue Origin continues to remind people that SpaceX is not the only game in town. Not quite two months after first successfully landing a New Shepard rocket, the company has launched and landed that same rocket.
Now, it’s true that the two companies are working in different rocket realms. The New Shepard rocket is suborbital, flying up to about 100 kilometers and returning. The Falcon 9 of SpaceX has been launching cargo into orbit prior to landing.
But the concept has officially been proven. A single rocket has been launched and returned, and launched again. The more often that rocket can be flown, the cheaper each flight becomes.
So, while SpaceX is arguably launching in a different weight class (based on going into orbit and/or trying to land at sea), Blue Origin is a serious player. And that’s a good thing.