Jeff Bezos demonstrates re-usable rocket - again

Brian G Turner

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Brian, Very cool. I did not even hear that this was happening. But I did hear about the spectacular failure to land a Space X rocket at sea. It feel over and the video was just what the news people want, something spectacular going BOOM! But a successful landing looks rather mundane, although at this point in history it is anything but.
 
I feel that Bezos' rocket, whilst undeniably an accomplishment, is a toy with a glossy marketing campaign. It has twice flown up, to just over the agreed boundary between the atmosphere and outer space, and then come back down again. Successfully, yeah, but what good is it? So companies can ferry tourists just far enough for them to claim they've been to space, and save money by not having to buy or build a new rocket for every trip?

The base engineering is there for a useful product, but until Bezos and Blue Origin have demonstrated a rocket that can launch payloads to orbit and return itself safely, I'm not impressed.

SpaceX, on the other hand, have launched payloads into orbit and returned the first stage successfully (with an equally glossy video):


To get to 100km above the Earth's surface and then come back down is one thing, but to first achieve the necessary thrust and velocity for an orbital mission and then perform and controlled deceleration and descent is an entirely different problem altogether.

SpaceX's failed attempts to land on barges at sea (there have been three - the first plowed straight into the platform, the second experienced a sticky valve, and last weekend's third suffered a leg that didn't lock after what appeared a successful landing) are crucial for bigger payloads (including, say, launching a manned mission to further out than the ISS) - to land on land is great, but due to the spin of the Earth, a return to the launch site requires a "boostback burn" - essentially a high atmosphere U-turn - which means enough fuel needs to remain in the rocket after launch, which in turn limits the maximum payload weight of the rocket. Landing at sea gives the rocket a downrange target (something that would lie at its return trajectory), meaning the boostback burn isn't needed, thus increasing the maximum payload weight of the rocket, and decreasing the actual price of reuse.

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Competition, though, is good, and Bezos is having a great time riling Elon Musk up.

All that said, Bezos only seems interested in reporting Blue Origin's successes. Musk and SpaceX, on the other hand, announce their tests well in advance, release the footage of the failures, and even discuss what went wrong and why. To me, only one of the two companies gives the impression that they're working towards scientific and technological advancements.
 
Lenny, you've given me a better insight. Thanks
 
SpaceX have only just gone and landed the first stage on one of their autonomous barges!

EDIT: On the Youtubes, queued up to the right time.

CfjG1c0VIAQtRBk.jpg:large
 
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