In recent news under the heading “Private Enterprise Goes to Space”, most of the press coverage has gone to SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. This is a genuinely big deal, and it deserves the glowing prose, but it overshadowed an impressive test by a smaller private launch company called Armadillo Aerospace.
Here’s a video of the test. You’ve seen dozens of rocket launches. No matter! Keep watching, because you’ve never seen a rocket land like this before.
Making that work is hard. I’d ask you to take my word for it, but since I’m no longer a practicing aerospace engineer, you’d have to take my word for it that it’s worth taking my word for it. I work in software now, and you can safely take my word for it that software is easier than launching rockets. But then again, I just realized that I can name three companies that are hard at work on commercial launch services, and in each case, the funding has come from software: Armadillo Aerospace (Jon Carmack’s Doom/Quake video game empire), SpaceX (Elon Musk’s PayPal), and BlueOrigin (largely funded by Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos).
The moral of the story appears to be that software may be easier than rocket science, but it also instills a powerful desire to make science fiction come true.