Blue Origin Makes Historic Rocket Landing

Van Horn, Texas – November 24, 2015 – Blue Origin today announced that its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas.

“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”

Bezos stated: “This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.”

Named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the New Shepard vertical takeoff and vertical landing vehicle will carry six astronauts to suborbital altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally-recognized boundary of space. The New Shepard space vehicle is a fully reusable and operated from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. The vehicle is comprised of two elements—a crew capsule in which astronauts would ride, and a rocket booster powered by a single American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine. At liftoff, the BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust. During ascent, astronauts would experience 3x the force of gravity as the spacecraft accelerates through the atmosphere.

Following powered flight, the crew capsule would separate from the booster and coasts into space, providing several minutes of weightlessness. As the crew capsule descends, it reenters the atmosphere with astronauts experiencing about 5x the force of gravity before deploying three main parachutes for landing. Meanwhile, the booster descends under guided flight to the landing pad. Just prior to landing, the booster re-ignites its BE-3 engine which slows the vehicle to 4.4 mph for a gentle, powered vertical landing, enabling vehicle reuse.

Flight Details

  • Launched at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, November 23, 2015
  • Apogee of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) for the unmanned crew capsule
  • Mach 3.72
  • Re-ignition of rocket booster at 4,896 feet above ground level
  • Controlled vertical landing of the booster at 4.4 mph
  • Deployment of crew capsule drogue parachutes at 20,045 feet above ground level
  • Landing of the crew capsule under parachutes at 11:32 a.m. Central Time

A video is below (with a somewhat confusing inclusion of some animated segments):

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