It does look a little…weird. But this is what Blue Origin’s rocket looks like. Picture from Blue Origin’s site.
Blue Origin is one of those rocket companies that’s been fairly secretive in its activities. But it’s very difficult, unless you’re Russia or China, to secretly shoot a rocket 307,000 feet (58 miles) into the sky. But launch is just what Blue Origin did last week, on 29 April.
The company not only tested the rocket, but then popped the capsule off of the rocket’s top. The capsule, which Blue Origin calls New Shepard, deployed parachutes and appeared to land successfully. Which is great when you consider Blue Origin would like to put passengers in that capsule. You can see it in the video below.
The other part, the more interesting one to me, is the reusable rocket part–the rocket body under the capsule . That’s the part they didn’t really focus on, and according to sites like Mashable, Blue Origin didn’t say what happened to the rocket body once the capsule was deployed. Supposedly, the rocket body is supposed to land the way it takes off, vertically. It’s the way SpaceX’s Falcon 9 first stage rocket body is supposed to land, when the Falcon 9 eventually succeeds in landing. You can go to Blue Origin’s “Technology” page to see what they’d like to do.
There’s really very little good information on that page, though, if you’re interested in details. There’s no payload weight range to LEO, GEO, GSO, etc. But, maybe they’ll have that information there eventually. They do list information about “payload lockers,” specialized containers to carry experiments to orbit in New Shepard. But I’m certain only so many of those boxes can be carried up.
So, Blue Origin has finally done something more visible for spaceflight. Sure, they’ve tied themselves to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) last September (still not sure why) to develop a rocket engine to take the place of the politically incorrect Russian engines. Maybe they’ll call the partnership BlULA? But, it is something I’ve noticed–most of these “New Gen” space companies, with as much chest-thumping as they do about changing the space scene, still rely very much on the older companies for some of their tech and processes. Perhaps that’s an article subject for another day.
Still, it’s very exciting to see someone else start launching rockets, even if it’s not that high or long. It’s only a matter of time…and Blue Origin’s money. And for those wondering about the title–Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is also the owner of Blue Origin.