Blue Origin of Kent, Wash. on Monday launched a rocket into space and landed it back on earth vertically, making history and creating serious competition for Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX.
SpaceX of Hawthorne first landed a rocket vertically two years ago, but that rocket didn’t go into space. Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket reached 329,839 feet before returning to touch down on its Van Horn, Texas concrete landing pad. The ability to land vertically is prized because it allows rockets to be reused and may increase the frequency of launches.
Blue Origin is a rocket company founded by billionaire and Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. The company aims to launch tourists as well as payloads into space.
Launching people and payloads into space is an expensive business. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket cost $61.2 million per launch and is discarded after use. Because rocket components are the most expensive part of a rocket launch, the ability to reuse a rocket could drastically reduce the cost of launches.
While Blue Origin has pulled ahead in vertical rocket landing technology, its rockets have not been used to carry a payload into space yet. SpaceX’s rockets have been used for commercial, military and NASA payload launches since 2012. And last Friday, SpaceX was approved by NASA for its first human transport mission to the International Space Station in late 2017.