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Blue Origin's suborbital rocket lands back at its launch site

Blue Origin suborbital rocket lands back at launch pad

Blue Origin, the rocket company led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has successfully demonstrated a suborbital rocket that can land back at its launch pad.

The breakthrough opens the door to reusable rockets which will bring the cost of suborbital flight down significantly, a possible game-changer for the space industry.

"This flight retired a lot of risk and validated a lot of the elements of the design," said Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper.

"When you lower the cost of access to space very significantly you will change the markets, you will change what's possible."

Despite Monday’s development, the company still plans two more years of test flights before people will ride on its New Shepard spacecraft.

The vehicles are designed to carry six passengers approximately 100km above the Earth, breaching the boundary between the atmosphere and space.

The New Shepard prototype, which launched from a site in Texas on Monday, hit the 100km goal before landing back at its pad eight minutes later.

The success of the launch comes as something of a relief to Blue Origin which failed in its first landing attempt in April due to a problem with the system’s hydraulics. The redesigned system now includes a backup second pump.

In suborbital spaceflight, rockets are not traveling fast enough to reach the speed required to counter the pull of Earth's gravity, so they re-enter the atmosphere like a ballistic missile.

"We'll enter into commercial operations when we're ready. In my view, if you can think of another test to do, you do it," Bezos said.

In September, Blue Origin announced it was going to construct a $200m (£132m) rocket manufacturing plant and a new launch site in Florida.

So far, similar attempts at a rocket launch by Elon Musk's rival company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), have been unsuccessful.

In June, its Falcon 9 rocket exploded destroying a cargo capsule with supplies for the International Space Station. The rocket is due to stay grounded for the time being to prevent a similar mishap from occurring.

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