Blue Origin Completes Another Rocket Launch from West Texas
This story has been updated.
The commercial space company Blue Origin completed another test launch Saturday morning from its secretive facility north of Van Horn in rural West Texas.
The company's billionaire owner Jeff Bezos, live-Tweeting during the launch in an unusually-public manner, confirmed that the rocket component had again landed safely back on the ground.
Sunday evening, Bezos confirmed in an email that the company's "New Shephard" spacecraft had again successfully reached space, flying to an altitude of 339,178 feet.
"We pushed the envelope on this flight, restarting the engine for the propulsive landing only 3,600 feet above the ground, requiring the BE-3 engine to start fast and ramp to high thrust fast," Bezos said.
The company also released a video of the launch on Sunday, along with a statement that it would not be releasing any further details or granting any media interviews.
The launch marks the third time the company has used the same rocket booster for a launch, and the second time it has re-used that booster in a test flight.
The company performed a similar test in January, and first demonstrated its ability to land a rocket back on Earth in November 2015. Bezos has called that reusable rocket technology a "game changer" in the commercial space industry.
The craft lifted off shortly after 10 AM Saturday morning. Dust surrounded the launch pad, a load engine roar was heard and then the rocket shot high into the air, leaving an unmistakable trail of smoke behind it as it ascended.
About 10-15 minutes later, a loud, explosive boom emanated across the rural ranchland surrounding the test facility, just before the craft's rocket booster appeared to land back at the launch pad. The craft's small crew capsule followed, parachuting down from the skies and touching down at about 10:28 AM.
On Friday, Bezos tweeted that aboard this flight would be two microgravity experiments, from the University of Central Florida and the Southwest Research Institute.
Bezos also indicated on Twitter that for this test, as the rocket booster descended back to Earth, the company would attempt to re-ignite the rocket engine closer to the ground than before.
"Pushing the envelope," he said.