Blue Origin Re-flies Same Booster into Space

From Blue Origin

The very same New Shepard booster that flew above the Karman line and then landed vertically at its launch site last November has now flown and landed again, demonstrating reuse. This time, New Shepard reached an apogee of 333,582 feet (101.7 kilometers) before both capsule and booster gently returned to Earth for recovery and reuse.

Data from the November mission matched our preflight predictions closely, which made preparations for today’s re-flight relatively straightforward. The team replaced the crew capsule parachutes, replaced the pyro igniters, conducted functional and avionics checkouts, and made several software improvements, including a noteworthy one. Rather than the vehicle translating to land at the exact center of the pad, it now initially targets the center, but then sets down at a position of convenience on the pad, prioritizing vehicle attitude ahead of precise lateral positioning. It’s like a pilot lining up a plane with the centerline of the runway. If the plane is a few feet off center as you get close, you don’t swerve at the last minute to ensure hitting the exact mid-point. You just land a few feet left or right of the centerline. Our Monte Carlo sims of New Shepard landings show this new strategy increases margins, improving the vehicle’s ability to reject disturbances created by low-altitude winds.

Though wings and parachutes have their adherents and their advantages, I’m a huge fan of rocket-powered vertical landing. Why? Because — to achieve our vision of millions of people living and working in space — we will need to build very large rocket boosters. And the vertical landing architecture scales extraordinarily well. When you do a vertical landing, you’re solving the classic inverted pendulum problem, and the inverted pendulum problem gets a bit easier as the pendulum gets a bit bigger. Try balancing a pencil on the tip of your finger. Now try it with a broomstick. The broomstick is simpler because its greater moment of inertia makes it easier to balance. We solved the inverted pendulum problem on New Shepard with an engine that dynamically gimbals to balance the vehicle as it descends. And since New Shepard is the smallest booster we will ever build, this carefully choreographed dance atop our plume will just get easier from here. We’re already more than three years into development of our first orbital vehicle. Though it will be the small vehicle in our orbital family, it’s still many times larger than New Shepard. I hope to share details about this first orbital vehicle this year.

Also this year, we’ll start full-engine testing of the BE-4 and launch and land our New Shepard rocket – again and again. If you want to stay up to date with all the interesting work that our team is doing, sign up for email updates at

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

  • ThomasLMatula

    You forget, Amazon is a publicly traded stock, so it has easier access to capital markets than Elon Musk’s ventures. As for cross talk, exactly how does Telsa and Solar City help SpaceX with solving its technology problems. If anything they are a drain as Elon Musk has three different firms to run, not one. Electric vehicles and solar energy make help with his Mars settlement, but not with the challenge of a reusable RLV.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Heard that too, hereabouts. A 15 metre core sounds fanciful and overly expensive to me now, but incredibly useful. I’d be happy to receive information that such an architecture is “affordable”, but wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s ridiculous. Frustrating patience is required, combined with a healthy dose of hope.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    A plausible theory. Hopefully, more info will arrive this year.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Never forget: “the fact that government evolved from organizations founded on instituting and furthering slavery, rape, and pillage.”

    Some dictators have not the power as it seems to outside. They represents often a clan or a family or another network. I think Stalin, Hitler and Mao were of kind of the stand-alone dictator, whereas North Koreans “Kims” and China may belong to the clan type. Even kings are dictator in a stron sense, they origin from a dynastanial family, which controls them in a way and have to fight others dynasties to sustain power.

  • Vladislaw

    Musk will build the rocket on the pad.

  • Vladislaw

    The non space states members will smell blood in the water and the pork for the old usual suspects will simply shift to new other other programs.

  • Vladislaw

    Actually, as soon as the FAA put out the warning that there could be a launch it was all over the internet. Several of the space blogs, i follow, on Facebook had reported that Blue Origin might be launching.

  • Vladislaw

    This SpaceX group on Facebook was also predicting it

  • JS_faster

    I’ll get right on that…

  • windbourne

    so, you think that private space will lead to NASA getting their budget cut?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I did not forget that at all. While they can sell stocks, they also have to pay dividends, and maintain cash on hand to avoid hostile interests buying their way in.

    As for Space X, Tesla and Solar City, like most who believe in the religion of ‘capitalism’ you always ignore the nature and value of manufacturing and the value of maintaining a skilled work force. With the exception of Solar City, Musk is running engineering and manufacturing operations. Both work with fabrication of sheet metal, structures, and power systems. Additionally the type of engineers working at Space X and Tesla could go from one to the other should the times call for that. I’m not sure Blue could have engineers go race robots at a fulfilment warehouse.

  • Vladislaw

    Reprioritized to which contractors get the contracts is likely. We are seeing it on the commercial side. Do you believe that when the Nation has two domestic commercial transportation service providers to LEO, and a commercial heavy lift like the Falcon Heavy that NON space state members are going to want to keep funding SLS/Orion? If those programs get cut, will the same contractors get new development contracts for the same ole’ same ole’ ? Or will there be shifts in the fortunes of some companies?

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “Why is there a need for road transportation? ”
    F9 was restricted to the maximum road allowed diameter because of the location of the Hawthorne factory and the McGregor test site. For later architectures they will have to reassess where they manufacture the cores.

  • windbourne

    Well, do not forget the money for deep space habitat along tugs. I suspect that old space will bribe the right critters to make sure that their bread is buttered.

  • I think rather he is doing these things because he is able to.

    He can. You can’t. Get it? Join the club.

  • Oh sure. Take something that Elon proposes and then transfer that conceptual design to his napkin. That’s real creativity.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Decatur, the next town over at factory about a mile or so from the river. That is why Senator Shelby is so protective of ULA.

  • patb2009

    not really..

    The problem of LH is that you get about 30% more Isp, which is awesome but then you have fluffy fuel so you get big tanks that are heavy.

    Generally for a first stage, gross takeoff weight isn’t a big deal.

  • ReSpaceAge

    How close is spacex to a railroad track and what is the maximum diameter by rail to the Cape?? Seems SpaceX could gain some diameter for falcon class rockets if took the Lionel route. Single core falcon Heavy maybe????

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I don’t think rail is the solution. Rail, even more so than road, is limited to a standard size for carrying cargo. Basically they are going to have to manufacture wider diameter cores at a different location. Design and engine and Dragon manufacture could stay at Hawthorne, but if they aim to build 6, 7, 10, or even 15m cores, they will need a manufacturing facility more convenient to waterways or launch sites.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Usage of rails is not limited to standard width You can build customized solution based on single rails and special rail cars. You can even standars size rails inside this larger special rail size in order to use it of the locomotive.

  • Snofru Chufu


  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Are you suggesting that SpaceX build a custom railway track from down town Hawthorne all the way across the continental US to Cape Canaveral?. I think seeking out an alternate manufacturing facility for wide body rockets might be the ever so slightly cheaper option.

  • Snofru Chufu

    No, you are wrong. Larger first stage means also more costs, that is trivial. Furthermore, you are overestimate tankage weight contribution to overall stage mass. LH2/LOX can be also build light as the Saturn-V’s S-II stage demonstrated.

  • mfck

    I am relaxed. To the point, the waypoint you wave your hands about is a waypoint in BO’s and VG’s marathon. SX plays whole another game in another leaugue. Neither you, nor Jeff or Richie set waypoints for them, and that is my last comment on the matter on this site. Promise.