Between Boeing, Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Xcor, and Blue Origin, the private space race is fully underway—and it appears that Jeff Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin, is finally making some headway. After much speculation as to how far along in the development process the company’s line of rockets was, Bezos announced today the successful launch and landing of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on Monday.
Designed to take up to six passengers just beyond the atmosphere, the rocket, which was unmanned at the time, reached 329,839 feet before landing fully intact just 4.5 feet from the center of its launchpad. Being able to land a rocket vertically is important to space companies because it would mean saving millions of dollars by reusing rockets after launches, rather than letting them fall into the ocean as trash, as is customary with current space missions. SpaceX has also been testing vertical rocket landings, with occasionally explosive results.
Blue Origin’s successful landing follows a failed attempt in April, which saw a New Shepard vehicle lose its propulsion unit due to hydraulic failure. This turnaround could spell the beginning of manned—and paid—flights as early as next year. Accordingly, Bezos and company are celebrating.
Beyond private space flight, Blue Origin will build also engines for the new generation of NASA probes and U.S. national security missions, the BBC reports.
“The thing I’m most excited about is humans in space, and the vision for me is millions of people living and working in space,” Bezos told reporters at a launch site in Cape Canaveral in September. “One day, I don’t know how long this will take, I look forward to having a press conference with you guys in space.”