Blue Origin unveils New Glenn rocket plans

A comparison of the New Glenn rocket alongside other current and historic craft. Image courtesy of Blue Origin.
A comparison of the New Glenn rocket alongside other current and historic craft. Image courtesy of Blue Origin.

US-based private spaceflight company Blue Origin yesterday announced plans for its largest rocket yet – the New Glenn.

Named after John Glenn, the first US astronaut to orbit the earth, the spacecraft will be able to launch large payloads into Earth orbit and beyond.

Run by Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is trying to make space more accessible through reusable rockets.

It has already demonstrated this capability on its New Shepard rocket – a suborbital space tourism platform – and plans to use this experience to build the New Glenn.

“Building, flying, landing, and re-flying New Shepard has taught us so much about how to design for practical, operable reusability. And New Glenn incorporates all of those learnings,” explained Bezos, CEO of Blue Origin.

The New Glenn itself will be one of the largest rockets ever built – taller and wider than the Delta IV operated by ULA and the Falcon 9 flown by SpaceX.

According to Blue Origin this spacecraft will be ready to fly before the end of the decade.

It will be 23 feet (7m) in diameter and lift off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, which would make it also one of the most powerful rockets on the market.

To achieve this, the New Glenn will make use of no less than 7 BE-4 engines. The BE-4 itself is a highly advanced engine which uses a Methalox (Methane + Oxygen) fuel, which is superior to the fuels used in earlier rockets.

The craft will come in two variants, one with 2 stages which will stand 270ft (82.3m) high, and another with 3 stages that will be a massive 313ft (95.4m) tall.

Within both of these architectures the first stage will be able to perform a propulsive landing at its launch site, and then be re-used in future missions.

Bezos also confirmed that the New Glen would not just be used to cargo, but also for manned flights.

“New Glenn is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space,” said Bezos.

“Our vision is millions of people living and working in space, and New Glenn is a very important step.”

Currently there is no information on the exact payload of the New Glenn, nor how it will compare on a cost-basis against similar offerings by competitors like SpaceX.