New Blue Origin video reveals New Glenn details while company celebrates rocket’s first customer.
Jeff Bezos revealed new details on Blue Origin’s New Glenn booster Tuesday (March 7) at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington, D.C. In a new promotional video released by the company, a typical flight profile for the rocket is shown including launch, payload delivery to orbit, and first stage recovery.
Liftoff will occur from Cape Canaveral’s LC-36, shown with heavy modifications from both crewed and uncrewed flights. Once the second stage continues the rocket’s ascent to orbit, the first stage will flip around and relight its center BE-4 engine to slow itself down as it returns through the atmosphere. After using a series of six aerodynamic strakes, or fins, to maneuver through the atmosphere, New Glenn’s first stage will land on a moving recovery vessel downrange in the Atlantic ocean. Blue Origin states that the moving ship will offer better stability for landing.
New Glenn will be the second orbital-class rocket to use a floating platform for first stage recovery. Although SpaceX achieved the first sea platform landing in April 2016, the technology was originally patented by Blue Origin in 2010. The two companies had a legal dispute with the U.S. Patent Office on the technology until Blue Origin withdrew the claims in 2015. Sea-based platform recovery was originally conceived in academia in the 1990s before either company was founded.
Bezos also announced at the conference that Paris-based Eutelsat – one of the largest telecommunication satellite operators in the world – has agreed to be the first paying customer on New Glenn, signing for a mission to Geostationary Transfer Orbit sometime around 2021 or 2022. Eutelsat often gives new launch vehicles a market by flying their payloads on the initial flights of the vehicles.
The following day, March 8, Bezos tweeted that OneWeb has also booked five flights on New Glenn bringing the rocket’s manifest to six. OneWeb plans to launch an initial constellation of over 650 satellites to bring broadband internet to every point on Earth. It is as yet unclear if the company’s first or second generation satellites will fly on New Glenn.
Seven BE-4 engines designed and manufactured entirely by Blue Origin will power New Glenn’s first stage while a single BE-4 optimized for vacuum conditions will power the second stage. An optional third stage can propel payloads into deep space and will increase the rocket’s height from 269 feet to 311 feet. The first BE-4 engine was completed last week at the company’s current manufacturing facility in Kent, Washington.
Blue Origin is currently constructing a massive rocket manufacturing facility on Kennedy Space Center property where New Glenn’s components will be manufactured and assembled. Construction is scheduled to be completed in early 2018.