Last month, the U.S. space agency awarded a NASA Launch Services contract to Blue Origin and its New Glenn rocket.
The news comes in the form of a NASA Launch Services II contract being awarded to Blue Origin and its New Glenn rocket, which allows the launch system to be available as part of NASA LSP for future missions,
With ordering windows between June 2025 and December 2027, it’s effectively a contract for the privilege to compete with other NLS II recipients for future NASA launch contract awards.
NASA’s Launch Services Program is the U.S. space agency’s management and oversight program for launching uncrewed rockets delivering spacecraft that observe the Earth, visit other planets and explore the universe, ranging from weather satellites and telescopes to Mars Rovers.
Blue Origin is the launch services startup of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and is considered a direct competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
New Glenn is the company’s ambitious orbital launch system, involving a behemoth of a rocket standing just shy of the historic Saturn V at a height of 322 feet (98 meters).
The rocket is expected to utilize a reusable first stage and a large industry-leading, 7-meter fairing.
Like SpaceX’s Falcon rockets, New Glenn is designed to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the first stage landing at sea on a large vessel to be processed for reuse at Port Canaveral.
Unlike many of its competitors, however, Blue Origin aims to make the New Glenn system capable of delivering double the payload volume of any currently-available launch system, and do so in 95% of weather conditions.
Not to be outdone of course, SpaceX is deeply committed to its Starship program, with its prototype iterations already making 40,000ft test flights, with interplanetary travel clearly set as that system’s endgame.
Blue Origin plans to launch the New Glenn system for the first time no earlier than sometime in 2021.
Video courtesy of Blue Origin