Blue Origin has successfully reused their New Shepherd rocket that launched into space and landed safely on November 23, 2015 and accomplished the same feat by launching and landing the exact same rocket again on January 22, 2016.
In a letter on the Blue Origin site, founder Jeff Bezos discussed the repeat mission and how the data gathered during the November 2015 flight made planning the rocket’s second mission “relatively straightforward.”
One significant change to the second mission was the software used to land the rocket, which changed the target from the exact center of the landing site to a wider area, allowing the rocket to land slightly off-center if conditions meant better chances of a successful landing.
Bezos compares the new approach to a pilot landing a plane.
It’s like a pilot lining up a plane with the centerline of the runway. If the plane is a few feet off center as you get close, you don’t swerve at the last minute to ensure hitting the exact mid-point. You just land a few feet left or right of the centerline. Our Monte Carlo sims of New Shepard landings show this new strategy increases margins, improving the vehicle’s ability to reject disturbances created by low-altitude winds.