Company founder and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos teased grander plans for Blue Origin’s earlier this year. This morning, he gave us a peek at those plans. In an email update, Bezos released early details about the “New Glenn” rocket. It’s much bigger and more powerful than the New Shepard rocket they have landed four times.
New Shepard uses a BE-3 liquid rocket engine that produces 110,000 pounds of thrust.
New Glenn brings a lot more power with seven BE-4 rocket engines. Each BE-4 engine produces 550,000 pounds of thrust. Bezos says the two-stage variant produces a sea-level thrust of 3.85 million pounds.
Here’s an image Bezos shared this morning showing how the New Glenn stacks up against other similar rockets.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) September 12, 2016
The two-stage variant measures 23-feet in diameter and towers 270 feet in the air. The three-stage variant extends the height to 313 feet. A single BE-3 engine powers the upper stage.
“New Glenn is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space,” Bezos writes. “The three-stage variant – with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage – is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions.”
It’s clear Bezos and company have their sights set much higher than just tourism flights.
And like SpaceX, reusable is a core tenant for the company moving forward. Bezos says the first stage of the booster is being designed to fly at least 25 missions. That might appear to be a lofty goal but remember – Blue Origin has already flown the same New Shepard rocket four times.
New Glenn sounds impressive, but when will it fly? Bezos and Blue Origin are aiming for first flight by the end of this decade. The company is currently in the middle of constructing launch and production facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Their plans for the future sound big and appear to be bigger.
New Glenn wasn’t the only announcement. Bezos left us with a tease. “New Glenn is a very important step. It won’t be the last of course,” Bezos writes. “Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong. But that’s a story for the future.”
New Shepard = Alan Shepard (one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts who went to space on a suborbital trajectory, similar to the New Shepard rocket).
New Glenn = John Glenn (first American to orbit Earth).
New Armstrong = Neil Armstrong (first person to walk on the Moon).
Could Armstrong be Blue Origin’s first orbital vehicle? It would be the next logical step for the company. SpaceX dominates the headlines for private space companies, but Blue Origin is starting to make some noise of their own.
While we wait for more information on New Glenn and New Armstrong, New Shepard is gearing up for another test flight. But landing won’t be the goal for this one. Blue Origin plans to test the ‘launch escape system’ in mid-flight. Here’s an animation of what next month’s test will look like.