NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Blue Origin is planning to invest $1 billion in its forthcoming New Glenn orbital launch vehicle, as the company works to develop more reusable and affordable space launch capabilities, founder Jeff Bezos said Wednesday.
Speaking during the final keynote at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber event here, Bezos — also founder and CEO of Amazon [AMZN]— said his company has stressed the importance of reliability as it builds more agile space systems.
“What’s the strategy for New Glenn on reliability? … Our entire architecture uses a one-fault operative requirement,” he said, noting that Blue Origin has a requirement for the rocket that “one sensor out should not affect availability.”
New Glenn’s booster is fully reusable and expected to land downrange on a ship, Bezos said.
“We have really stressed availability on this vehicle,” he added, noting that the goal is to land the booster even during heavy sea states.
“There’s a big team of people working very hard to make all of that come true in the very near future,” he added.
Blue Origin is one of several companies who have been working to develop more flexible and affordable launch options for the space community. Bezos noted that in to have a low-cost system, there needs to be “actual operational reusability.”
“We don’t take the [rocket] apart and inspect it between flights, we fly it over and over,” he noted. “If you build a space vehicle that you have to inspect in an intense way and disassemble and refurbish between flights, that’s going to be more expensive than an expendable vehicle.”
Bezos called for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Air Force to take potential commercial solutions into account sooner when considering requirements for a new program.
“It’s so important for the DoD, for the Air Force, for every government institution, when they can, to use commercial solutions,” he said. “What I find is that when the requirements are written, they are not written necessarily taking that into account.”
Effective engineers should build to requirements, but also must “push back” on requirements, he noted. “You need to say, ‘Was this requirement really needed? Because if we could waive this requirement, we could use this commercial system.’”