Jeff Bezos’s (yes, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) secretive rocket company, Blue Origin, released a couple of videos from a short hop test flight earlier this year. The New Sheppard test vehicle was lost in a more ambitious flight in September, after reaching 45,000 feet and Mach 1.2. That’s not unexpected when breaking new ground in a high risk environment with a highly experimental craft. They’re going to continue work with a new test vehicle.
Vertical take off and powered vertical landings seem to be the new in thing. Blue Origin’s New Sheppard is designed for such suborbital flights, and in the long term they’re working toward an orbital launcher. Regular readers may recall that SpaceX is looking into powered vertical recovery for their Falcon rockets as well. Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace are also working on vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) rockets.
There is some very cool work being done by private companies these days.