back to article Suck it, Elon – Jeff Bezos' New Shepard space rocket blasts off, lands in one piece

The was much whooping and popping of champagne corks yesterday at Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos' space outfit Blue Origin: the company's New Shepard rocket successfully performed a VTOL flight – a vertical takeoff and landing. It's the organization's second attempt at bringing a rocket back to Earth in one piece. The technology …

  1. ZSn

    Nouveau riche?

    It seems that this 'space' exploration malarky is just for the nouveau riche. If you want to do it properly pay your 40 million and go to the space station. For under a million to spend a few minutes weightless seems like a waste of cash. I'd prefer to spend it on fast cars, booze, and fast women (delete/amend gender to taste). Not that I have any choice in the matter being a grumpy old git (without the million+ to spare).

    But seriously, this is not space, it's not even close. It's just above the Kármán line, a fairly arbitrary distinction, going fairly slowly by satellite standards. Going and do something useful with your money.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Nouveau riche?

      >I'd prefer to spend it on fast cars, booze, and fast women (

      If you have billions of dollars, you'd struggle to spend it all that way, even if the cars were high class, the booze high performance, and the women triple-distilled.

      You're correct that this didn't make orbit, but then it was never meant to. Still, baby steps and all that.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Nouveau riche?

        "and the women triple-distilled"

        Eccentrica Gallumbits?

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: "If you have billions of dollars, you'd struggle to spend it all that way..."

        Richard Branson is said to have answered the question "how to be a millionaire" with "start as a billionaire and start an airline".

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Nouveau riche?

      But seriously, this is not space, it's not even close. It's just above the Kármán line, a fairly arbitrary distinction, going fairly slowly by satellite standards. Go and do something useful with your money.

      But this is exactly how road transport, and later air transport, finally took off (if you'll excuse the pun).

      In both cases the rich eccentrics were the ones who started, with small steps, and eventually what they were doing progressed until it became of interest to more staid businesses, at which point some serious money started to be invested and it became more and more commonplace, and more accessible to the general populace.

      The trouble with space travel is that it started with a politically driven effort to score points which was very dramatic, but very shortlived, and therefore skewed our perception. What you are seeing now is much more "the norm" it's just we've had our expectations raised by what's gone before.

      The successful VTOL, especially the "L" bit, is a major step forwards. Elon must be grumbling to himself today that he didn't get there first, but a bit of healthy competition will benefit everyone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nouveau riche?

        > But this is exactly how road transport, and later air transport, finally took off (if you'll excuse the pun).

        I watched the video and started to feel myself getting excited.

        Not that I would be into a trip like that even if I did have the money.

        But what with all the other lousy shit going on in the world at the moment, it's nice to get excited about something that is a little more forward-looking.

        1. Scott Broukell
          Meh

          Re: Nouveau riche?

          Normally of course I would have gone to MaMa's Net, but this site is so much more technically knowledgeable. So, my two youngsters, Marcella and Tobias, have been nagging me for ages about getting a limousine to their next school prom. If I order one of these reusable rockets on Amazon, is one expected to wait an additional 5 minutes, as per Uber taxis? - just asking, timing is everything with these events you know, toodlepip.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Elon must be grumbling to himself today that he didn't get there first"

        SpaceX have been doing VTOL rockets for a while and they weren't the first either.

        What SpaceX (and no-one else) has done until now is landing the first stage of an orbital system (although SpaceX got close to the technical achievement with a soft landing in the sea)

        I think Elon is definitely grumbling today, but only about the fact that people don't understand the vast difference between sub-orbital and orbital

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Elon must be grumbling to himself today that he didn't get there first"

          > "...people don't understand the vast difference between sub-orbital and orbital."

          12:1

          That's (roughly) how much more delta-v is needed for orbit, over a popup suborbital flight. Compared to the Space X booster, this one is a mere drone (kidding!). Sure looks a lot more responsive on the descent, anyway.

          1. VeganVegan
            Flame

            Re: "Elon must be grumbling to himself today that he didn't get there first"

            I totally agree with Big John.

            McDonnell Douglas had already demonstrated vertical takeoff and landing by a rocket some 20 years ago.

            It's that order of magnitude greater delta-v and all the challenges that come with it that is the real rocket science.

            Not to belittle the New Shepard achievement, but Musk is openly aiming for Mars, Bezos is only aiming for 100 or so klicks up.

            1. Sawari Ma

              Re: "Musk is openly aiming for Mars,Bezos is only aiming for 100 or so klicks up."

              He's waiting until Musk lands a few Amazon Prime members on Mars first.

      3. goldcd

        Re: Nouveau riche?

        Turnpikes, railroads, air-travel, phone lines, electricity, emergency services, blah blah

      4. Arctic fox
        Happy

        @Alister "The successful VTOL, especially the "L" bit, is a major step forwards."

        Ah, but you have to understand old chap that for those of us of certain age the sight of the way this rocket landed was nostalgia plus:

        I wish I was a spaceman

        The fastest guy alive

        I'd fly you round the universe

        In Fireball XL5

        Way out in space together

        Conquerors of the sky

        My heart would be a fireball, a fireball

        Every time I gazed into your starry eyes

        We'd take the path to Jupiter

        And maybe very soon

        We'd cruise along the Milky Way

        And land upon the Moon

        To a wonderland of stardust

        We'd zoom our way to Mars

        My heart would be a fireball, a fireball

        'Cause you would be my Venus of the stars

        But though I'm not a spaceman

        Famous and reknowned

        I'm just a guy that's down to earth

        With both feet on the ground

        It's all imagination

        I'll never reach the skies

        My heart is still a fireball, a fireball

        Every time I gaze into your starry eyes

        Fireball, fireball

        Every time I gaze into your starry eyes

        Fireball, fireball .........

        If you really wish to indulge:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ifS2nP53Zs

        1. Alister Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: @Alister "The successful VTOL, especially the "L" bit, is a major step forwards."

          @Arctic Fox

          those of us of certain age

          Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately, in this context) I remember it well, and was old enough to watch, and appreciate the Apollo11 landing, on a flickery black and white tv as well.

          1. Arctic fox
            Happy

            @Alister " I remember it well"

            Thank you for replying Alister. I have to say that the moment I saw that ship land butt first I was transported back in time to the early sixties as a very small boy who watched both Fireball XL5 and Space Patrol (before either Stingray or Thunderbirds). The New Shepard landed in the way we in our imaginations way back then thought that space ships would land. Watching that was a most extraordinary moment for me - I was transported back some 50 years or more in time and I was a little boy sitting next to my Mum on the settee utterly entranced by what I was seeing. Astonishing is it not how one "simple" image can conjure up so much.

    4. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Nouveau riche?

      Sounds like someone who isn't nouveau riche and needs an whaaaambulance. We also need a "world's tiniest violin" icon...

    5. Esme

      Re: Nouveau riche?

      Begging your pardon, but

      (a) a sub-orbital hop up to space is a decent first achievement, especially given that

      (b) they're recovering the booster, and

      (c) Blue Origin ARE planning on getting into orbit, if you bother checking their website.

      I can even see utility in there being a company with he capability of offering sub-orbital hops - could be useful during astronaut training. Currently astronaut training is lenghty and experience to try to ensure, as much as possible, that the ones who get launched into orbit are pretty likely to actually function OK once they get up there and not be incapacitated or bug out in long periods of weightlessness. Having something in between a few seconds of weightlessness in a plane on a vomit comet trajectory and actually being up at the ISS for several weeks could help weed out borderline cases.

      Also useful for civilians thinking of holidaying in orbit too, of course (bear in mind that Bigelow are thinking about creating an orbital hotel of sorts). Better to have a quick taster of what it'd be like before booking that week or month long stay, so you'll know whether or not you're likely to cope or be miserable beforehand, no?

    6. kmac499

      Re: Nouveau riche?

      To seriously enjoy your new found imaginary wealth try Fast BIkes, Old Booze and Slow Women\Men

      I have a fast bike that I enjoy riding quite slowly

      I was once offered some very old very expensive Brandy, It was nectar

      As for the third item,,,,

    7. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Nouveau riche?

      Ummmm, this was a test. Do you for one second think that NASA also fired their rockets all the way to the moon from the start? Hell no. They did baby steps just like Blue Origin is right now and like SpaceX did in the beginning.

      And this is not space tourism either (which you seem to be conflating this with). This is proper aerospace work.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't believe it, they just ran the film backwards to make it look like it was landing.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Wasn't it one of the early SpaceX tests that was far more fake looking a year or two back - it literally came down absolutely vertically. This one definitely had something of a wobble, you could see it correcting.

      However I was very impressed just how fast it landed, no gentle descent, just drop it and pull on the hand-brake at the last moment!

  3. NoneSuch

    I'm sorry sir, we can't authorize your ticket unless you have an Amazon Prime account.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh never mind, turns out you accidentally signed up for a free trial 3 years ago and have unwittingly been paying ever since. Welcome aboard.

      1. dotdavid

        I only signed up for the space flight Prime benefit; why do I have to pay for this music and video streaming stuff?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What was Cristiano Ronaldo doing on board?

    Apparently talent and experience in cheerleading will be required for future rocket engineers. (But they really want to direct videos.)

    A good spaceflight ruined. Hey, never thought of space golf before, the killer app for these things.

    1. Ben Bonsall

      Re: What was Cristiano Ronaldo doing on board?

      Alan Shepard got there first.

  5. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Lacking context here

    So is this just a fun hobby for a billionaire, or is there any kind of plan to monetize it or use it for Amazon?

    EDIT: Never mind, looks like space tourism is the goal here. Apart from having fun with big rockets.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Lacking context here

      It is monetized. The engine design has been purchased by the United Launch Alliance. Effectively the usual suspects - Boeing, etc have conceded that Besos has done a better engine design than them.

      We will see on the actual landing mechanics - I suspect that will be monetized as well. The rocket showed some very impressive stabilization capabilities.

      The difference between Bezos and Elon is that Bezos as a habit monetizes by component not e2e - every single piece of the Amazon puzzle can stand on its own starting from the backend (which is now AWS) and to the logistics. This is no different - it is being monetized by component.

  6. Alan Sharkey

    Its the wrong way to get off this planet

    We need another method to repulse gravity (and No, I don't have the answer). using masses of fuel to lift masses of fuel can't be the right way.

    So, come on, how will we do it easily and cheaply?

    Alan

    1. Donkey Molestor X

      Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

      i would hope that someday some eccentric rich person puts a Gauss-gun type mass driver up the side of a mountain near the equator and pointing east. that could give a payload a substantial boost, maybe even allow a rocket to reach orbit with one less stage.

      1. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        gun on the side of a mountain?

        Have you forgotten Gerald Bull?

        Presumably Matrix Churchill could still revisit his Iraqi supergun technology?

      2. Mikel

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        @Donkey Molestor X

        What happened to the first nine?

        The railgun idea is fun, but the only place in the solar system that it works for manned flight is Ceres. You need near vacuum, low gravity, and a thousand kilometers of running room if you aren't going to turn your astronauts into pink goo. And we shall have to wait for fusion power as well, as that is a lot of juice

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

          Even though you have to get astronauts in orbit the 'old fashioned way' having a much cheaper way to get cargo into orbit would mean that the launch vehicles for them would only be getting them into orbit, not them and everything they need for their entire journey as is the case today.

          That would eliminate one of the big reasons it would be so expensive to go to Mars. If we could lift the ship, its fuel, a couple years' worth of food and so forth via railgun 1000x cheaper than today, and launch a single rocket for the crew and any acceleration sensitive cargo, the pricetag wouldn't be so daunting. And they'd have a better chance of surviving since you could add additional shielding to the ship, and all the extra fuel needed to handle all that extra mass, without adding an extra 0 to the pricetag!

          Not sure why you think you'd need fusion power, any power plant can power it. It isn't like we can dig rocket fuel out of the ground - we have to make it, and the energy required to do so is quite a bit more than the energy that would be needed to operate a railgun - because remember most of the fuel you burn in a rocket is used to lift other fuel you will need later. The railgun only lifts the cargo.

      3. hplasm Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        "...mass driver up the side of a mountain..."

        The last guy working on this got shot in the head by Mossad...

    2. Little Mouse
      Mushroom

      Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

      how will we do it easily and cheaply?

      Perch your payload on top of a nuclear bomb and light the fuse. I'm no von Braun, but I reckon some of it might reach escape velocity.

      Or did you want to add "safely" to your list of requirements?

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        c.f. the Pascal-B test in the Operation Plumbbob test series. And the Project Orion.

        The latter was theoretically safe (assuming you were on the vehicle; for those on the ground, the pollution would have been several times worse than even a Volkswagen diesel!)

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet / Project Orion

          IIRC Orion was supposed to be assembled in orbit and launch from there. There was a proof-of-concept test with a model and chemical explosives, seemed to work quite well.

          And there once was a spacecraft Orion that got its own TV series.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet / Project Orion

            I've never been convinced that Orion could work as advertised. Sure, there's plenty of raw energy, but that energy has to accelerate reaction mass to do useful work. So where is that mass? is it proportional to the power levels available?

            In space the only mass available is the pusher plate and the bomb itself, which doesn't seem to me a lot, considering the exhaust velocity can't be super-high for a semi-focused burst. And the thrust occurs only intermittently so each burst has to provide a LOT of acceleration to make up for the pauses.

            The plate must not only have enough heft to provide lots of reaction mass, but has to have much more besides to shield against the bursts.

            The thing would be very very heavy. So heavy that I can't see even nuclear bursts applying very much thrust, certainly not enough to make it all worth while.

            Unless of course you launch it from the ground, where there's plenty of air for mass...

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet / Project Orion

              "The plate must not only have enough heft to provide lots of reaction mass, but has to have much more besides to shield against the bursts."

              Actually it doesn't. A couple of feet of water is enough to provide adequate shielding and you'll need that anyway to protect the squishies for prolonged periods as soon as you clear the magnetosphere. Even a small solar flare would have been fatal for any Apollo crew unlucky enough to be in the CME ejection path.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet / Project Orion

                I meant the kinetic energy bursts of many, many nukes trying to prevent you from going to space today (in one piece anyway).

            2. cray74

              Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet / Project Orion

              I've never been convinced that Orion could work as advertised. Sure, there's plenty of raw energy, but that energy has to accelerate reaction mass to do useful work. So where is that mass? is it proportional to the power levels available?

              Dyson's Orion propulsion units included a substantial amount of inert reaction mass, up to 3000 tons per propulsion charge for some interstellar Orion designs. Part of the original research was converting that reaction mass into a focused jet that directed a majority of the energy toward the pusher plate. It was found that, ironically, long cylinders of reaction mass produced pancake-like, unfocused clouds when the charge detonated but thin disks produced cigar-shaped jets. Because of the need for density to achieve the compact disk, and to absorb radiation from the bomb, tungsten was a favored reaction mass.

              Which is all discussed at length in the wiki article, including bomb diagrams and masses.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        "Perch your payload on top of a nuclear bomb and light the fuse. I'm no von Braun, but I reckon some of it might reach escape velocity."

        It's been tried (accidentally). during an underground nuclear test in the 50's a steel cap was launched at a speed greater than 65 km/s, well over escape velocity (the high speed camera only captured a single frame, so it could have been traveling much faster). however it's doubtful it reached space, more than likely it was vaporized during the ascent.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plumbbob#Propulsion_of_steel_plate_cap

      3. Captain DaFt

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        "Perch your payload on top of a nuclear bomb and light the fuse."

        Already been done:

        http://savvyparanoia.com/the-fastest-man-made-object-ever-a-nuclear-powered-manhole-cover-true/

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        "Perch your payload on top of a nuclear bomb and light the fuse"

        Orion class launchers violate most nuclear arms limitation treaties. That's why the USA stopped working on them.

        Too bad. 30,000 TONS to Mars and back in 9 months would be awesome.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

      The obvious way to get off the planet is to go to the edge and jump - if only reality was more accommodating

      1. Vic

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        The obvious way to get off the planet is to go to the edge and jump

        What - climb over the Circumfence?

        That way lies madness[1] ...

        Vic.

        [1] And turtles.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

          You just tie a really long rope to the moon and climb up. None of this escape velocity nonsense.

      2. The First Dave

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        In a similar vein, which way would you prefer to land - the rather 'exciting' rocket-braked landing, or the parachute landing that the capsule was seen completing. The latter raised an awful lot of dust, and looked a little bit of a 'sudden' stop.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

          Yup, personally, I'll take the rocket landing.

    4. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

      "So, come on, how will we do it easily and cheaply?"

      If I were a betting man, I'd guess on the materials science guys making a space elevator possible before the quantum science guys perfect either (a) the teleport or (b) the antigrav module.

    5. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

      "We need another method to repulse gravity"

      Why, what's wrong with Cavorite...?

    6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

      Maybe there will be a way once we really figure these out.

      Another idea would be short-time time travel. No, really. Earth moves all the time, and pretty fast, too. (Rotating around itself, revolving around the sun, the solar system is moving, our galaxy is moving, the universe is expanding - it all adds up. Or not, given the vectors.) Given that your device will move you in time only (and not both in time and space) all you'd have to do was jump back in time for a short bit and - presto, you're in spaaace. The same could be achieved if your device would allow you to 'sidestep' in time, i.e. enter a seperate/subjective loop for a bit, just long enough for the earth to move away from you. So mo mucking around with escape velocities, let earth do all the work!

      Could someone who's up for the math for planetary movements do some quick back-of-the-beer-mat calculations, please? (This is El Reg, there must be someone who can do this. I'll be the guy who bulids the launch pad, promise.) Off the top of my head I'd say anything between 30 seconds and 2 minuties should to it.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Its the wrong way to get off this planet

        But everybody knows that when you time travel you remain in the exact spot on Earth. Source: H.G. Wells, and 99.9% of all Sci Fi stories about time travel written since.

        Even if this did work, it would only be useful to get you to where Earth has been. That rather limits its usefulness.

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Neat!

    That's how real spaceships are meant to land.

    Now, if they can only scale it up to something that can make orbit, they'll have a REAL spaceship, not a tinker-toy.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Neat!

      It is neat! It's spookily sci-fi looking and a pleasure to watch.

  8. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    So it's an Up-Goer...

    ... AND a Safely Back-Down-Goer too!

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The space joyride market seems crowded..

    Virgin and Blue Origins vying for this. SpaceX seems more interested in pure "put things into orbit". My bet is long term, SpaceX will be successful. The other two.. not so much as there's a limited number of millionaires. I expect one of them will probably link up with Disney for the ultimate in an E-ticket (or maybe Z-ticket) ride.

    <wanders off, muttering and wondering how this will improve humanity or help space exploration.>

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

      <wanders off, muttering and wondering how this will improve humanity or help space exploration.>

      It really is laughable reading some of the commentards on this thread. Their echoes could be traced back through history... listen!

      "That Christopher Columbus, who does 'ee fink 'ee is, sailing off all over the place, waste of money, what use is it?"

      "And what about that Captain Cook, eh, wasting the Royal Navy's money, can't see the point, we've discovered everything that's worth finding"

      "Stupid steam Joyrides, have you seen them rich toffs paying good money to ride around on that circle that Richard Trevithick's built? What's the point of that then?"

      "I hear George Stephenson's offering rides on his new steam tramway thing between Stockton and Darlington. I mean, what's the point? Who wants to go to Darlington anyway?"

      "I'm glad they've brought in that new Locomotive Act, having someone in front with a red flag will just show those idiots who think horseless carriages will ever amount to anything. What a waste of money!"

      "Have you heard about that Wilbur Wright bloke? He's supposed to have invented a flying machine thing, he's showing it off all round Europe. Can't see the point myself, it's not like it's useful for anything"

      "They ought to ban those barnstormers, whizzing about everywhere in their airyplanes, why would you pay money to go up in one of them things, it's not like they're any use for anything really"

      "What about Harry H. Knight and Harold M. Bixby then, they've put up $18,000 for some crazy stunt to fly across the Atlantic. What a waste of money!"

      etc.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

        "I mean, what's the point? Who wants to go to Darlington anyway?"

        I can confirm that that is still an unanswerable pub quiz question in Stockton to this day.

        No, that's not my coat. It's still only November. Pass the sun tan lotion matey!

      2. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

        "...waste of money, what use is it?"

        No downvote form me, but this is nowhere near the cited "counterexamples". Pretty much all of those were young fields with great development potential even if those "quoted" failed to see it. Rocketry, on the other hand, is not a field where substantial advances are possible anymore - sure, improvements are still possible and landing on fire will be a rather cool and quite useful feature but it's just not possible to invent a chemical rocket that would be ground-breakingly more efficient than what we have now. There's no huge untapped potential left to explore here, only novel commercial applications and price points...

        1. Alister Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          @DropBear Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

          Rocketry, on the other hand, is not a field where substantial advances are possible anymore...

          There's no huge untapped potential left to explore here, only novel commercial applications and price points...

          But isn't that the point? The technology is now mature (it may not be the best way, but it's the only realistic one for a while), so the next step is commercialisation, which will hopefully lead to dropping prices and greater uptake.

          We need a commercially viable space transport industry, so that we can then sensibly consider permanent settlements on other moons and planets.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

      -<wanders off, muttering and wondering how this will improve humanity or help space exploration.>-

      Use it as a launch base for LOHAN?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

      > "...SpaceX will be successful. The other two.. not so much as there's a limited number of millionaires..."

      Over 10 million people.

      Say 10% could swing such a joyride financially, and out of those, 10% might seriously consider it, and of those, 1% decide to do it. That's 1000 paying customers.

      Say it's successful, so successful they cut the price in half due to efficiencies of scale. The applicant pool will expand quite a bit, and another halving will open the floodgates. Woohoo!

      It all hinges on their future safety record tho.

    4. Vic

      Re: The space joyride market seems crowded..

      Virgin and Blue Origins vying for this.

      And Virgin Galactic, of course.

      The NTSB report into the accident[1] was released in July. I seem to have missed it in the press. And I'm quite surprised at the outcome[2].

      Vic.

      [1] The press release is available here

      [2] The breakup was caused by the co-pilot unlocking the booms too early - at transonic speeds - and the subsequent loadings caused the booms to feather - leading to catastrophic breakup. But Scaled Composites were criticised for failing to anticipate that this might happen and guard against it.

  10. Camilla Smythe Silver badge
    FAIL

    Fail!!

    Not Slam Dunk Vertically Down with any degree of certainty.

    Similar dodgy drunken end of descent to the one achieved by Musk.

    Oh and I do not give a rah rah fuck that it managed to do it without falling over and blowing up.

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: Fail!!

      And you know the vehicle's operational envelope how, exactly?

      It doesn't matter if the thing was spinning like a catherine wheel, as long as it can correct for the actual motion vectors and convert them into the result you saw (and don't give a fuck about, which suggests you don't understand what you saw!)

      Of course, it's possible that the landing was on the hairy edge of the thing's ability to correct for, and just lucked out. But unless you know what those limits are, your comment is specious.

      1. AmenFromMars

        Re: Fail!!

        Upvote for excellent use of the word "specious".

      2. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

        Re: Fail!!

        OK. Fine. Just to dig my hole deeper.

        Suck it, Elon – Jeff Bezos' New Shepard space rocket blasts off, lands in one piece.

        Now either El Reg made that one up or they took the intent from the reporting as delivered by Bezos and/or his team.

        Of course, it's possible that the landing was on the hairy edge of the thing's ability to correct for, and just lucked out. But unless you know what those limits are, your comment is specious.

        Very magnanimous of you.

        If you compare the Videos of each landing, Bezos VS Musk, you will notice that the behaviour is largely the same. You might expect that given they are dealing with similar scenarios. So consider the different constraints...

        You can basically ignore everything else and concentrate on the landing target size and motion of the landing target. Bezos, big and not moving. Musk, small and subject to both vertical and rotational motion. Spot the difference?

        Now go back and look at the Bezos Video. Did it land within the same area that was available to Musk? At the point when it touched down and almost toppled over did the ground rotate and push it over the edge?

        Fundamentally given you would not wish to be sitting on top of Musk's one, when it fell over, would you honestly feel more confident sitting on top of the Bezos version. Go back, compare the videos and put your hand on you heart.

        Now I don't know you from Adam but given your surnym is Weir I might live in fear that you know something about 'control theory'. However given you can look at the Video and decide that my, fair enough, contrite comment was 'specious' I would almost feel safe in suggesting you do not know a lot about 'control theory' or what you do know is not exactly complete or rigorous.

        I would not wish to 'blow my own trumpet' but if Bezos and Musk asked for my input then, prior to getting egg on my face, I'd be fairly confident I could provide them with a documented and general solution using a number of LM324's, they might prefer the MIL Spec version, and some other passive components.

        Perhaps El Reg can put us in touch.

        Have A Nice Day.

  11. ZeroSum

    Sub-Orbital

    The real prize remains to be won.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Sub-Orbital

      Sub-orbital was good enough for Shepard, Grissom and Ham, I'd be good enough for me... Seriously though, if I had the money I'd do a sub-orbital first and deceide after that whether I'd save up for that ISS trip or not.

  12. Mike Bell

    I really don't want to be a doom monger

    ...but that descent looked well shaky. I feared that it might tip over at any moment. I can't help thinking that the control has to be much better than that before putting it to real use.

    1. Vic

      Re: I really don't want to be a doom monger

      but that descent looked well shaky

      I thought it looked excellent.

      It landed bang-on target, bang-on speed.

      There were a few high-load maneuvres on the way down - but that is absolutely to be expected. This is an unmanned first stage, so it doesn't matter if it gets thrown about a bit; what matters is that the landing is both safe and fuel-efficient. It appears to be so.

      Vic.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: I really don't want to be a doom monger

      ...but that descent looked well shaky.

      It's a beta rocket.

      It won't be steady until RTM + Service Pack 2 at the earliest.

  13. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Still waiting

    I have been waiting for my promised (by NASA) cheap tourist ticket to orbit for 45 years now.

    I don't expect it to be cheap, but this is ridiculous.

    Sigh. Some of the NASA posters when I was a kid, with all the Moon and Mars bases, manned nuclear rockets to the outer planets, robotic asteroid tugs, and space stations around Venus... OTOH all that was supposed to be government funded, and there was not the slightest concept of commercial anything in that vision of the future. They glossed over selling those asteroids or whatever they were going to do with them, resource-wise.

    The only "somewhat preposterous" thing about that video was the crap music.

  14. Gene Cash Silver badge

    BE-3 engine demo

    Also, no one has mentioned this is a very extravagant demo of the BE-3 engine, which is slated to replace the no-longer-welcome Russian engines on an upgraded Atlas. It's a nice test flight without really risking anyone's payload.

    EDIT: whoops, I'm mistaken. The BE-4 is the one for Atlas and still under development.

    1. DryBones

      Re: BE-3 engine demo

      You were part-right. The BE-3 is one of the engines in the running to replace the RL-10 on the second stage...

  15. Mystereed

    What about further afield?

    Loved the video.

    Could you land on Mars with one of these then take off again to get back to a mothership in orbit? Bit easier than in Earth's gravity well?

    That would be a fantastic baby-step.

    I know the answer is a big fat no, but it just looked great coming in for that landing :-)

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: What about further afield?

      tbh it does look a bit like the MAV in The Martian movie.

      1. aui
        Coat

        Re: What about further afield?

        ...I thought more like Dr. Jerkoff's rocketship in Flesh Gordon!

        1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: Dr. Jerkoff's rocketship in Flesh Gordon

          Dildos! In SPAAAAAAACE!

          or, if you prefer another part of that movie:

          "What is that thing, Dr. Jerkoff?"

          "I believe it's some type of Penisaurus."

          I may have got the quote slightly wrong. It's been MANY years since I last saw Flesh Gordon.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: What about further afield?

      >Could you land on Mars with one of these

      Trickier - there is bugger-all atmosphere so you can't use any of the aerodynamic surfaces to steer, you have to do it all with rockets.

      >then take off again to

      Easy peasy lemon squeezy

      >get back to a mothership in orbit?

      Get back to - yes, catch up with - no

      You could get to orbital height and see the mothership zoom past at Mach30

      1. Martin Budden
        Joke

        Re: What about further afield?

        You could get to orbital height and see the mothership zoom past at Mach30

        At which point you simply poke a hole in your spacesuit glove and steer yourself to the mothership. Or use a fire extinguisher. Either works, I've seen the documentaries.

  16. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Pint

    Luner Lander...

    ...many a 10p spent in my youth trying to land on the moon and this video brought back all those memories of elation when actually managing to land it.

    The other thought was just how much this beast looks like Black Arrow. And Black Arrow was remarkably steerable too the way the nozzles were arranged and gimballed. I wonder where we'd be now if it hadn't been cancelled. (And yes, those guys are STILL rightly bitter about the cancellation!)

    Anyway, well done Bezos for a successful proof of concept flight. Beers all 'round!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Luner Lander...

      Concorde had all the Black Arrow money.

      But it was developed out of an ICBM programme, and funding had been steadily dwindling. To visit the rocket test sites at High Down, Isle of Wight and find yourself in a old military fort and you can kind of feel that it was all a bit heath robinson compared to the massive efforts by the superpower nations. The concrete test pads are impressive to stand in though.

      Where would we have been now if it had not been cancelled? Well some of the tech fro Blue Steel, Black Knight and Blue Steel went into a euro project that developed into the Arianne launchers. The place that built the Prospero satellite carried on making satellites and has become part of Airbus.

  17. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Oh boy. Yet another sounding rocket.

    Delta Clipper did fairly reasonable heights 20 years ago.

    Vertical landing is easy when there's no horizontal component to deal with. When they can bring it down from 100km downrange and brake whilst flying "sideways", down to hover and touchdown then they'll be rivalling spaceX

    This is not "sub orbital" (aka "ballistic") It's just straight up and straight down.

    1. DryBones

      Re: Oh boy. Yet another sounding rocket.

      Upvote for remembering that. Also, just checked the Wiki page for it, tickled to find that some of the engineers that worked Clipper are on with Blue Origin now.

      Bezos and Musk weren't first to anything, including the concept of reusability. Wake me when they figure out what it actually costs (inspections, repairs, servicing, paperwork) to convince customers that it's ready to go again.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Oh boy. Yet another sounding rocket.

        DCX went to....3km. This went to.....100km.

        Not really a fair comparison.

  18. Number6

    Humbug

    Thunderbird 3 was doing that back in the 1960s.

    Still impressive though.

    1. davidp231

      Re: Humbug

      TB2 went up into space in one episode too.

  19. annodomini2
    FAIL

    Err... no!

    Credit to the achievement, but they did not get here first.

    Musk has already done this with Grasshopper.

    What he is trying to do is land, on a moving barge in the ocean, a (much larger) first stage, down range, with a starting altitude of 60-100km (orbit entry varies) and a separation velocity of Mach 6.

    None of which the BO rocket gets anywhere near.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Err... no!

      Grasshopper never got near Space. Although the F9-R that replaced it probably could have done.

      1. annodomini2

        Re: Err... no!

        But the velocity and trajectory are the key elements here.

        The Blue origins rocket won't get above Mach 2, maybe 3 at a push, this only being during launch, at apogee the velocity will be near zero.

        Also they are pretty much going straight up and down.

  20. Gartal

    Wankers, all(most) wankers

    Jeez, what a bunch of cynical no hoping, useless, puissant fucking wanking cunts. Give the bloke some credit for fucksake. How about applauding eh? instead of sitting there typing, trying to out cool each other with nasty shit. You can all go and get fucked. The lot of you.

    Bezos, Musk and Branson are doing the stuff. The real stuff. You're just a bunch of cunts.

    There. Better now.

    <Clap, clap, clap. Well done Mr. Bezos.>

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Wankers, all(most) wankers

      Absolutely.

      I never failed to be surprised by the total lack of imagination and technical knowledge showed by the commentators on this site - allegedly a technical site at that.

      I can only imagine they spend too much time trimming their hipster beards rather than learning about this sort of thing, about the what the various companies are doing, the technical challenges and so forth. All the information is out there, it's not difficult to find, and it's not difficult to understand (most of it anyway!)

  21. pewpie

    NASA gave us the 'Vomit Comet'

    Bezos proudly gives us the 'Puke Chute'.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: NASA gave us the 'Vomit Comet'

      Looks like more of a Chunder Wonder to me.

  22. Big_Boomer

    HARD LANDING!

    That passenger capsule hit HARD despite the parachutes. Even in acceleration couches that is gonna hurt!

    As for building serious spacecraft, the best method is to go to the Moon. Low gravity, no atmosphere, plenty of resources, no NIMBYs. Build a base on the moon, harvest resources, build the catapult (cheaper, smaller, simpler), assemble spaceship parts in space and as a side business export materials to earth. Accelerating everything from earth is always gonna cost-a-packet regardless of the method used and the energy used is just going to heat up the earth faster.

  23. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    The Vulture?

    Does anyone else remember the TV show Salvage-1 and their junk rocket the Vulture?

  24. TeeCee Gold badge
    Joke

    Meanwhile......

    ......in a secret lair beneath an extinct volcano, a black gloved hand reaches for a switch adjacent to a microphone:

    <Elon Musk>

    Destroy them all!

    </Elon Musk>

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Race for the 1% Market

    These guys are in a race for the 1% luxo entertainment market.

    I can't wait to see the fine print on the releases that in plain English say "you may die horribly from a hydrogen fuel explosion, or decompression at high altitude due to a falty seal and you will hold this company harmless."

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Race for the 1% Market

      Boilerplate.

      Hermes Conrad: Okay, captain, this is just a standard legal release, protecting Planet Express from lawsuits in the event of the unforeseen.

      Leela: [reading] "Death by airlock failure... "

      Hermes Conrad: Mm-hm.

      Leela: "... death by brain parasite... "

      Hermes Conrad: Yah.

      Leela: "... death by sonic diarrhea... "

      Hermes Conrad: Oho, you don't want that.

      Leela: Look, I don't know about your previous captains, but I intend to do as little dying as possible.

      Hermes Conrad: Ohohohohohohoho... Sign the paper.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has it occured to anyone...

    ...how bad life could be on earth with Musk or Bezos in charge of space travel?

  27. Rathkennamike

    Brilliant engineering - Well done

    To see some of the other comments you would think this stuff was old hat!. This is good engineering and a great technical achievement. Well done the engineers, technicians and designers and all the crew and thanks to the funding team they have achieved their dream.

    Like most developing technologies, what it ultimately gets used for is to be seen!

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