Jeff Bezos counts down to Blue Origin launch

Image: New Shepard preparations
Workers prepare Blue Origin’s rocket ship for a test flight. (Credit: Jeff Bezos via Twitter)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin rocket venture will put its New Shepard suborbital spaceship to its sternest test to date: a flight that involves a quick restart of the craft’s rocket engine just six seconds before projected impact.

If the restart doesn’t work on April 2, the third flight of the reusable New Shepard will end with a fiery splat.

The mere fact of Bezos’ announcement is almost as remarkable as the flight plan.

Previously, he might have said in advance that a flight would happen “very soon,” or the timing could have been figured out by checking the required notice from the Federal Aviation Administration. But the April 1 tweets represent the first time Bezos has publicly specified the date of a Blue Origin test flight in advance. (No fooling!)

Bezos is promising that there’ll be drone footage of the test. And two research experiments will be packed aboard for the trip to outer space. That marks another first for Blue Origin’s suborbital space effort.

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Jeff Bezos opens up Blue Origin rocket factory

Image: Bezos at Blue Origin
Billionaire Jeff Bezos stands beside the copper nozzle for a BE-4 rocket engine at Blue Origin’s production facility in Kent, Wash., while journalists snap pictures. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

KENT, Wash. – For the first time, founder Jeff Bezos guided a pack of journalists around his Blue Origin rocket factory today and showed off hardware that could send people on suborbital rides to outer space as early as next year.

The billionaire tech entrepreneur also laid out a vision for space commercialization that stretches out for hundreds of years, leading to an era when millions of people would be living and working in space.

“I think space is chock full of resources,” Bezos told reporters. “This is all my view, and I’ll be dead before I’m proved wrong, so it’s a very safe prediction to make. But my view is that there will be a ‘Great Inversion.’”

Today, huge industrial complexes on Earth build components that are sent into space, at a cost of thousands of dollars per pound. Bezos foresees an inversion in that flow of goods. “We’ll make the microprocessors in space, and then we’ll send the little tiny bits to Earth,” Bezos said.

In the long term, Blue Origin could set the stage for moving heavy industries completely off Earth, leaving our planet zoned strictly for “residential and light industrial” use.

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Blue Origin repeats launch-and-landing feat

Image: Blue Origin landing
Blue Origin’s New Shepard propulsion module fires its rocket engines for a soft landing. It marked the second trip to space and touchdown for the same prototype vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture sent up its New Shepard suborbital spaceship on another flight test to outer-space altitudes today, and brought it back to a safe landing.

The uncrewed flight at Bezos’ West Texas test facility arguably marks the first time that a reusable rocket designed for a vertical landing proved to be actually reusable for space missions.

There are caveats to that claim, to be sure: The SpaceShipOne rocket plane, the X-15 and NASA’s space shuttles have all demonstrated reusability after going into space. Those craft landed horizontally, like an airplane, rather than vertically. In addition, test rockets flown by the DC-X program as well as Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace and SpaceX have been reused after taking vertical hops. However, those rockets stuck to altltudes below 100 kilometers (62 miles), the internationally accepted boundary of outer space.

Despite all the caveats, Blue Origin’s feat marks a significant step toward flying reusable rocket ships on suborbital space trips on a commercial basis, for tourism as well as for research.

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Watch Blue Origin’s rocket scientists get happy

“Touchdown” means something different to rocket scientists and to football fans, but the cheering, hugs and high fives are the same – as revealed today in a Blue Origin video.

The video shows how the Nov. 23 landing of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft played out, as seen from four perspectives. Two views showed how the autonomous landing went down at the company’s test range in West Texas. The other two views showed the reaction of Blue Origin employees who gathered at the company’s headquarters in Kent, Wash.

Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Blue Origin as well as the better-known Amazon online commerce venture, touted the video in the third tweet he’s ever posted.

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Jeff Bezos spaces out: ‘I can’t wait to go!’

Image: Jeff Bezos and champagne
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, sprays champagne from a bottle after the successful landing of the New Shepard rocket booster on Monday. (Credit: Blue Origin via YouTube)

Amazon’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, says watching his Blue Origin rocket make a safe landing after flying into space rates as one of the greatest moments of his life, and he can’t wait to take a ride himself.

In an exclusive GeekWire interview, conducted on the morning after the New Shepard test mission, Bezos answered questions about what the flight means for Blue Origin, the space venture he founded … why he waited so long to start tweeting … and when the rest of us will get a suborbital space ride. He also stirred the pot in his rivalry with that other billionaire space geek, SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

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Blue Origin sends rocket to space, gets it back

Image: New Shepard launch
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket ship rises from its launch pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, successfully sent its New Shepard rocket ship to outer space for the first time on Monday – and even more amazingly, brought every piece back down to Earth for a soft landing.

“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket,” Bezos wrote in a blog posting that spread the news and shared a video.

Bezos makes a couple of cameo appearances in the video – including a shot showing him taking a seat in the control room before launch, and a post-landing scene in which he pops open a champagne bottle. (He’s the guy wearing the hat and sunglasses.)

The achievement arguably qualifies New Shepard as the “first fully reusable rocket” to go into space, said Jessica Pieczonka, a spokeswoman for Blue Origin. The flight comes after more than a decade of effort and several test flights at Blue Origin’s launch facility near Van Horn, Texas. The company is headquartered in Kent, Wash., and recently struck a deal for a $200 million launch and manufacturing complex in Florida.

Blue Origin’s aim is to reduce the cost of sending people and payloads to the final frontier – first, on suborbital up-and-down trajectories, and eventually into orbit and back. The venture follows through on Bezos’ childhood dream of spaceflight.

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