Today, Blue Origin announces an even bigger, more ferocious step. The much speculated, much hyped, New Glenn rocket finally has some more details. Standing just over 269 feet tall, the New Glenn rocket will have the capacity to lift a nearly 100,000-pound payload into low Earth orbit.
Not quite as much as the advertised 120,000-pound payload SpaceX is touting for the not yet launched Falcon Heavy, but still impressive.
A 26,000-pound payload can be sent into a much higher, geostationary transfer orbit.
Blue Origin also released a slick animation showing a New Glenn launch and subsequent landing of the first stage booster on a floating platform.
Yeah, it looks pretty much exactly like how SpaceX does it. But how else would you land a rocket on a floating platform? Plus, it works.
Animations are cool and all, but when will this sucker take to the skies? Company founder Jeff Bezos says they are looking for a 2019 maiden flight. If successful, Blue Origin will charge ahead with regular launches. And they already have their first customer – Eutelsat.
“Their solid engineering approach, and their policy to develop technologies that will form the base of a broad generation of launchers, corresponds to what we expect from our industrial partners. In including New Glenn in our manifest we are pursuing our longstanding strategy of innovation that drives down the cost of access to space and drives up performance. This can only be good news for the profitability and sustainability of our industry,” said Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer.
Bezos was pumped to have one of the leading satellite operators signed on as a customer.
“Eutelsat has launched satellites on many new vehicles and shares both our methodical approach to engineering and our passion for driving down the cost of access to space. Welcome to the launch manifest, Eutelsat, can’t wait to fly together,” said Bezos.
The deal between Eutelsat and Blue Origin calls for a launch of a geostationary satellite sometime in 2021 or 2022.
The BE-4 engine
Yesterday, Bezos showed the world the first fully assembled BE-4 engine.
Just one engine creates 1.1 million pounds of thrust. Seven of them will push the first stage New Glenn rocket into the sky.
The BE-4 won’t just power Blue Origin rockets. United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin are teamed up to develop the new engine. The next ULA rocket, Vulcan, is expected to use the American-made BE-4 engine instead of the Russian-made RD-180.
Step by step, bigger and bigger
Stack the New Glenn rocket against the best rockets of today and yesterday, and you can tell Blue Origin is serious.
And they’ll only get bigger. Bezos repeated a statement we’ve heard before saying New Glenn will be “the smallest orbital rocket Blue Origin will ever build.”
Another rocket has been teased, called the New Armstrong. But we don’t have any details about that one. I’m sure development of New Armstrong will get serious once New Glenn proves itself. And since Blue Origin is only going bigger with orbital rockets, something tells me New Armstrong will live up to its namesake and target the moon.