Why Bezos’ rocket is unprecedented—and worth taking seriously

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Enlarge / Jeff Bezos, founder and Chief Executive of Amazon.com, in May, (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images) We can say this much for Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and Blue Origin—he does not lack ambition. First Bezos founded an online bookstore that became the largest retailer in the western world, and now he plans to self-fund a New Glenn rocket that is nearly as tall as the Saturn V launch vehicle and more than half as powerful. As wild as Bezos’ idea sounds, Blue Origin might be able to get the job done. And if Bezos and Blue Origin can fly their massive orbital rocket in the next three to four years, it would be a remarkable, unprecedented achievement in a number of ways that could radically remake spaceflight. Proof of concept First, a few words about why this might really be viable. It is true that all Blue Origin has flown so far is a propulsion module, powered by a single BE-3 engine, and a capsule on a suborbital flight. The company’s New Shepard spacecraft is designed to carry six passengers on 10- to 15-minute hops up to about 100km before bringing them back down to Earth. This is not dissimilar to the first Mercury flights in the early 1960s, hence the moniker New Shepard, named after pioneering astronaut Alan Shepard. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Why Bezos’ rocket is unprecedented—and worth taking seriously

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