VAN HORN, Texas, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin made a surprising breakthrough Monday, successfully landing a reusable rocket booster after a trip to the edge of space.
The New Shepard rocket first took its unmanned capsule some 62 miles above Earth's surface, to the limits of the planet's atmosphere. After separating from its booster, the capsule floated back to Earth by a parachute.
The rocket maneuvered its way back toward its landing pad. At 5,000 feet, the thrusters of its BE-3 engine reignited, steadying its angle and slowing its velocity. The rocket touched down safely at a speed of just 4.4 miles per hour. The craft came to rest just a few feet from the center of the landing pad's bulls-eye.
"Rockets have always been expendable," Bezos wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "Not anymore. Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket."
Rocket reusability is a much sought technology; it is expected to make space travel much more profitable for the growing private aerospace industry. SpaceX, the space company of Bezos' fellow tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, has tried and failed to land a reusable rocket three times.
"Full reuse is a game changer, and we can't wait to fuel up and fly again," Bezos said.
The latest test flight and success wasn't announced until after the fact, a sharp contrast to the media frenzies which have accompanied SpaceX's close-but-no-cigar landing attempts.
Though Blue Origin is currently teaming with United Launch Alliance to build an engine and launch vehicle for NASA's future deep space missions, the New Shepard is intended to usher in the age of private space travel and space tourism.