Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to Launch Bigger Rocket in Race With Elon Musk’s SpaceX


The rockets Blue Origin builds and launches on the Space Coast of Florida will be some of the world’s largest, the company announced Monday, while also hinting at plans for eventual moon missions.

Jeff Bezos, the billionaire CEO and founder of Seattle-based Blue Origin, revealed new details about the planned orbital rockets, including their name: New Glenn, paying tribute to John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.

Coming in two versions standing 270 feet and 313 feet tall, the New Glenn will trail only NASA’s 322-foot Space Launch System rocket in height.

The basic two-stage New Glenn, burning liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen, will generate 3.9 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines when it blasts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 36, possibly before the end of the decade.

“New Glenn is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space,” Bezos wrote in an update Monday.

Though taller, the New Glenn is not as powerful as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which will generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust. SpaceX had hoped to debut the Falcon Heavy before the end of this year in a launch from Kennedy Space Center, but the timeline is unknown following the Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA’s SLS rocket, targeting a first launch from KSC in late 2018, will produce 8.4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

Like SpaceX with its Falcon rockets, Blue Origin plans to recover and reuse the New Glenn’s first-stage boosters, which measure 23 feet in diameter — nearly double the width of a Falcon 9 booster. Bezos offered no information on launch costs, but he believes reusability is essential to lowering costs and to expanding access to space.

Blue Origin has already proven its ability to land and re-fly smaller boosters, doing so four times with its suborbital New Shepard vehicle — named for Alan Shepard, the first American in space — during unmanned test flights at the company’s private range in Texas.

A fifth unmanned test is planned next month that will abort the New Shepard crew capsule from its booster mid-flight, while it is experiencing peak aerodynamic pressure, to simulate a crew’s ability to escape a failing rocket.

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SOURCE: USA Today, James Dean