In the long quest for a reusable flyback booster, Blue Origin has just made a big step forward with its New Shepard booster: they are now the first to fly a rocket past the Karman Line and into space, and then fly it back to the launch site for a precision landing on a designated pad. The New Shepard system includes a crew capsule that Blue Origins plans to market for suborbital spaceflights. Although they have beaten SpaceX to this particular milestone, SpaceX is going for a different market, as their flyback Falcon 9 first stage is much larger must return from much farther downrange. But on the other hand, Falcon 9 uses kerosene, a comparatively easy fuel, while Blue Origin uses liquid hydrogen, a fuel which few have mastered and which comes with significant density penalties. It’s an impressive achievement, and Blue Origins has rightfully earned a spot in the history books. They’ll ratchet it up a little more after they finish analyzing the flight data, because they intend to reuse this specific vehicle again. If all goes well, once they start offering these flights to the public, they expect most of their customers to be millionaires with a bucket list, and universities wanting to run experiments requiring more microgravity than ZeroG’s parabolic flights can offer, but not costing as much as the ISS.
And also, Happy Thanksgiving to all the American readers! I hope you have all had a chance to stuff yourselves properly today. 😉