Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket has been winning awards left, right and center, but this one is "personally meaningful" for company chief Jeff Bezos. The reusable rocket has been chosen to receive the Collier Trophy for 2016, presented to those who've made the "greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America" for the past year. New Shepard is the latest in the list of impressive awardees, which include Boeing for the 747 and its successors, the Navy for its autonomous X-47B aircraft and NASA JPL for landing Curiosity on Mars.
According to the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), Blue Origin won the award "for successfully demonstrating rocket booster reusability with the New Shepard human spaceflight vehicle through five successful test flights of a single booster and engine, all of which performed powered vertical landings on Earth."
The Jeff Bezos-owned private space corporation conducted five test flights using New Shepard 2 in 2015 and 2016, successfully relanding the rocket each time. NAA Chairman Jim Albaugh praises the company for "developing the first new large liquid hydrogen rocket engine in almost 20 years and demonstrating repeatable vertical takeoffs and landings makes the long sought after goal of low cost reusable rockets and access to space a reality."
Blue Origin hasn't been resting on its laurels despite New Shepard's success. It recently finished building the new BE-4 engines for Shepard's successor, the New Glenn rocket. That doesn't mean it's abandoning its award-winning creation, though -- it even recently released the first photos of the New Shepard capsule.