The battle for the reusable rocket has taken off.
All along, it was Elon Musk’s SpaceX that was in the lead to be the first reusable rocket. But that took a new meaning when Jeff Bezos-backed space flight company Blue Origin managed what SpaceX has been trying to do unsuccessfully for quite some time. Blue Origin’s New Shepard flew a suborbital test to 333,000 feet and landed safely in West Texas. Though comparing Blue Origin to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is not quite right since SpaceX is intended to carry payloads—satellites and cargo—into space, while New Shepard is designed to take people into space for four minutes. What Bezos managed to do was upset Musk who issued a series of tweets downplaying it.
But the fact is that there seems to be perceptible progress in building a reusable rocket. It’s still early days, yet Bezos is quite confident of starting commercial suborbital flights carrying passengers over the next couple of years. It remains to be seen whether Musk—who has been sidelined—manages to do one better by then. The world is watching to see if there is really a business case for reusable rockets. The next vacation a couple of years down the road could well be in space.