In a ‘battle of the billionaires’ it seems Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has the edge over Pay-Pal founder Elon Musk in the important ability to successfully land a rocket after launch.
Musk, and his SpaceX company, has been trying to re-land a launched rocket for about two years. Yesterday, Jeff Bezos tweeted that his Blue Origin project and its stubby-shaped New Shepard rocket had successfully been brought back to Earth on November 23rd.
Bezos said: “The rarest of beasts – a used rocket. Controlled landing not easy, but done right, can look easy,” and then invited people to look at the 3 minute video. Blue Origin had not been flown to orbit, but had reached 100.5 kms.
Bezos said “we made history today. Now who wants to go to space?” The rocket lifted off, and landed, from the Blue Origin site in West Texas. “As far as we can tell from our quick-look inspections and a quick look at the data, this mission was completely nominal, and this vehicle is ready to fly again,” Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said in a brief conference call with reporters November 24th.
Elon Musk congratulated Bezos and his team, although pointed out that there was a significant difference between reaching the edge of space and getting into orbit – and then returning. Blue Origin will fly again in “a couple of weeks”.
However, the news prompted equity analysts from investment bankers Exane/BNP-Paribas to say this was something of a positive for the satellite industry. “We consider the reusability of the satellite launch vehicle as the next major step in reducing satellite launch costs. As a reminder around one third of a satellite capex is dedicated to launching the satellite into orbit. Space X talked about a 10x reduction in launch costs if they could reuse their rocket. Such a reduction in launch cost is currently not priced in satellite operators share price. Bezos managed to land back a rocket following a suborbital flight (ie up to 100km while orbital flights go up to c.2000km), so more development is needed. However this successful test flight shows the technical feasibility of such a project. It also means the arrival of a credible new player in the satellite launch market. Increased competition amongst launchers is likely to drive prices further down to the benefits of Eutelsat and SES.”