Blue OriginBlue Origin, the commercial spaceflight company founded by Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, claims to have flown and landed the world's first truly reusable suborbital rocket.
"Rockets have always been expendable. Not anymore," Bezos wrote in a blog post. "Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket."
The New Shepard rocket lifted off from Blue Origin's launch facility in Van Horn, Texas, on Nov. 23, 2015, flew about 2,800 mph, and soared to more than 62 miles above the Earth, the company said in a press release.
After deploying a space capsule, the rocket then plummeted back toward the ground, reignited its booster, and — in a world first — gently and safely touched down in the middle of a landing target.
"Perfect landing. We made history today," a Blue Origin narrator said in a video (below) released Tuesday morning.
Rockets cost millions of dollars yet normally sink to the bottom of the ocean after launch. So a design that could be refueled over and over again stands to completely change spaceflight by dramatically decreasing the cost of launches.
Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX has actually already demonstrated that it can land a rocket. Its "grasshopper" tests in 2013 launched a Falcon 9 rocket a few hundred meters into space and successfully landed it back on Earth.
Now Blue Origin has taken this achievement to a new height, and it's impressive — at least for suborbital rockets. Such launchers fly in a high, dramatic arc toward the edge of space, which is unofficially 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth, and could provide paying passengers with a few minutes of zero-gravity play time.
Yet suborbital rockets aren't powerful enough to put a spacecraft into orbit; Bezos' New Shepard rocket would need about 100 times more energy to pull off the feat.
SpaceX is designing a larger and more powerful reusable rocket that could put a spacecraft into orbit around the Earth. So far SpaceX has not succeeded, but the company says it will try again to fully launch and land a rocket after December 2015.
Watch a video of Blue Origin's historic test, below. ("When you watch the video you'll see that we took the liberty of engineering all the drama out of the landing," Bezos wrote in his post.)
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.