Launch, land and repeat has been the motto for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his space start-up Blue Origin, which successfully launched and landed a rocket over the weekend, marking the third time the company has pulled off the feat.
Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lifted off from a remote launch site in West Texas on Saturday. The company said the rocket reached an altitude of 339,138 feet during the flight before it returned to Earth and landed gently on the ground. The unmanned crew capsule it was carrying separated from the rocket and also landed smoothly on Earth, parachuting to the ground at 1.3 miles per hour, according to a video released Sunday by Blue Origin.
The successful landing is the third time in four months Blue Origin has successfully landed a used rocket vertically on Earth.
"When you throw a rocket away, an expendable rocket, you use it once and you throw away all that expensive space hardware," Bezos told ABC News' "Good Morning America" in December after Blue Origin first landed a rocket. "It’d be like getting in your [Boeing] 747 and flying across the country and then throwing it away, just using it one time. Imagine how expensive traveling would be."
Elon Musk’s SpaceX pulled off the feat in December when it returned the Falcon 9 to a target on land. It was also the first time a rocket successfully launched a payload into space and returned to Earth intact. SpaceX has also made several attempts to land its used Falcon 9 on a drone ship in the ocean.
Musk said drone ship landings are needed for "high velocity missions," which would allow payloads, such as satellites, to reach a higher orbit. Nailing the landing is huge for SpaceX and space travel as a whole because Musk has previously said he believes reusing rockets -- which cost as much as a commercial airplane -- could reduce the cost of access to space by a factor of one hundred.