Reusing rockets is the next step in space sciences and we have a whole bunch of private corporations vying to perfect the first reusable machine. In what can be termed as a milestone in the field, Blue Origin has succeeded in relaunching and landing the same old New Shepherd rocket.
Interestingly enough, the shuttle was also carrying a crew capsule, although there weren’t any human passengers in the flight, this time. However, considering that the company is developing a habit of successfully reusing rockets, they may one day soon carry humans into space.
The company appeared to be quite confident of the missions success this time, as evinced by how it gave an indication of the same to the public even before the launch.
Founder Jeff Bezos tweeted,
Working to fly again tomorrow. Same vehicle. Third time.
The company also took the opportunity to test out a couple of new additions and improvements to its rocket.
The Shepard’s BE-3 liquid hydrogen liquid oxygen engine was restarted closer to the landing pad at a mere 3,600 feet from the ground. That’s cutting things as close as it can get, because at that height and acceleration, if the rocket did not start, it would impact the ground within 6 seconds.
The company also tested out a brand new radar cross section (RCS) algorithm on the crew capsule accompanying the rocket. To make the flight even more productive, the shuttle was also carrying two experiments that could be performed only somewhat beyond the confines of the earth’s gravity — that is, in microgravity.
While a University of Central Florida experiments was aimed towards testing how a layer of dust reacts to a marble impact in space, the Southwest Research Institute experiment had to do with understanding the jostling and settling of rocky soil in microgravity.
While you may be tempted to compare Blue Origins to SpaceX, which is also attempting to launch reusable rockets, maybe you shouldn’t. True, SpaceX hasn’t done anything like three successive successes in a row and has faced failure in trying to get its rockets back to earth, but then, its rocket go further and are capable of taking and hoisting things into the earths orbit.
Blue Origin rockets on the other hand, are sub orbital. That said though, what it has managed to achieve is no mean feat. Reusability is something that can cut down upon the extremely formidable costs of launching rockers into space and if achieved, has the potential to usher in the era of space tourism and exploration.