This space race has a victor for now.
Update: This post has been updated to include additional context about SpaceX’s earlier Falcon 9 rocket test flights.
Amazon AMZN CEO Jeff Bezos just scored a major win in the current space race.
Blue Origin, the billionaire’s dark-horse rocket company, successfully launched and landed its reusable rocket on Monday.
The company’s New Shepard space vehicle (named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard) soared to a height of 62 miles, separated into its component parts (a BE-3 rocket and crew capsule), and then touched down amid the desert landscape of its secretive facility in Van Horn, Texas.
Bezos said the rocket “flew a flawless mission” and that its reusability, which promises to lessen the cost of spaceflight, “is a game changer.” The chief exec posted his first tweet to inaugurate the event.
In the video below, Bezos can be seen popping open a champagne bottle alongside his ground control crew in celebration.
SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Tesla TSLA CEO Elon Musk, has yet to safely stick the landing for its reusable Falcon 9 spacecraft during operational runs. The company has succeeded, however, in recovering boosters for shorter, closer-to-Earth test flights, as Musk pointed out on Twitter.
A comparison between the two vehicles is not exactly fair though. Whereas Musk’s rocket shoots for an orbital altitude and travels at speeds around Mach 10, Bezos’s rocket reaches suborbital heights at Mach 3.7 velocity, notes the tech news site Engadget. The difference in momentum and elevation makes SpaceX’s task much more difficult.
A number of Musk’s missions have ended poorly this year. A recent SpaceX launch ended in disaster soon after takeoff when one of the company’s rocket exploded mid-flight, an incident that Musk described as “definitely a setback.” Earlier this year, another SpaceX rocket tipped over shortly after touching down on an ocean barge.
Despite their rivalry, Musk congratulated Bezos’s team on Twitter TWTR …
… while making sure to note that the two company’s distinct missions are not exactly comparable.
The team at Blue Origin seeks to develop spacecraft for commercial space tourism. Another spaceflight company with similar designs—Virgin Galactic, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson—suffered a blow when one of its test pilots died in a crash this year.
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For more on Blue Origin, watch the video below: