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The successful suborbital test flight of the New Shepard space tourism vehicle over West Texas not only secured Blue Origin’s place in the history books by culminating with the first vertical touchdown on land of a rocket after a supersonic reentry, it was also a striking bellwether of the company’s wider commercial spaceflight ambitions.

Though the Nov. 23 test was aimed at deploying the six-seat crew capsule into suborbit for a planned 4-min. weightless period, attention was chiefly focused on whether the rocket stage could be successfully recovered using the tricky vertical-powered-landing technique. Blue Origin, the space company created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is staking its entire venture on mastering routine vertical landings to make launch vehicles reusable and reduce costs.

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