Blue Origin unveiled in a company newsletter on Monday its new large orbital rocket, the New Glenn, named after the first American to orbit Earth, John Glenn.
Company founder Jeff Bezos wrote New Glenn is designed to launch both commercial satellites and humans into space and that the three-stage variant is capable of flying beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) missions. Blue Origin intends to fly the rocket for the first time before the end of the decade from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Like the New Shepard booster that Blue Origin continues to test and successfully land after launch, the New Glenn is also meant to be reusable with the booster stage landing after it launches its payload into orbit.
New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and will lift off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust using seven BE-4 engines. The BE-4s burn liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen and also are set to power the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan rocket, the company said. ULA is a joint venture formed by Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA].
The two-stage version is 270 feet tall with the second stage powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. The three-stage version is 313 feet tall with the third stage using a single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine that burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The booster and second stage are identical in both variants, Blue Origin said.
Bezos said the company has learned a great deal from building and testing its New Shepard rocket “about how to design for practical, operable reusability. And New Glenn incorporates all of those learnings.”
Bezos also hinted the next system from Blue Origin will be named New Armstrong, named after Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the moon.
“Our vision is millions of people living and working in space, and New Glenn is a very important step. It won’t be the last of course. Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong. But that’s a story for the future,” Bezos wrote.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard has previously flown five times overall and the second built vehicle, NS2, has flown and landed four times with a fifth planned for October. The NS2 has also used the same engine in each launch. The company previously said it plans to perform at least 12 more test flights of New Shepard before putting humans on top of it (Defense Daily, July 14).
Blue Origin earlier said it plans to send test astronauts to space in 2017 and paid astronauts in 2018 (Defense Daily, April 12).