Jeff Bezos’ New Glenn rocket lastly makes an look on the launch pad

Dave Limp, Blue Origin's new CEO, and founder Jeff Bezos observe the New Glenn rocket on its launch pad Wednesday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.
Enlarge / Dave Limp, Blue Origin’s new CEO, and founder Jeff Bezos observe the New Glenn rocket on its launch pad Wednesday at Cape Canaveral House Pressure Station, Florida.

Anybody who has tracked the event of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket has been ready for indicators of progress from the often secretive house firm. On Wednesday, engineers rolled a full-scale New Glenn rocket, partially made up of flight {hardware}, to a launch pad in Florida for floor testing.

The primary New Glenn launch is sort of definitely at the least six months away, and it might not even occur this yr. In the previous few years, observers inside and outdoors the house trade have grow to be accustomed to the almost annual ritual of one other New Glenn launch delay. New Glenn’s inaugural flight has been delayed from 2020 till 2021, then 2022, and for now, is slated for later this yr.

But it surely feels completely different now. Blue Origin is clearly transferring nearer to lastly launching a rocket into orbit.

Scaling up

Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin’s founder, was at Cape Canaveral to see his large new rocket on the launch pad for the primary time. “Simply unbelievable to see New Glenn on the pad at LC-36,” Bezos wrote on Instagram. “Large yr forward. Let’s go!”

Beginning late final yr, Blue Origin officers doubled down on the corporate’s plans to launch the primary New Glenn take a look at flight by the top of 2024. This messaging coincided with the arrival of Dave Limp as Blue Origin’s chief govt, changing Bob Smith, whose seven-year tenure included the primary human suborbital flights on the corporate’s New Shepard rocket. Smith’s time as CEO was additionally marked by repeated delays on the New Glenn rocket.

Limp is pushing Blue Origin to maneuver sooner, and it appears the corporate’s staff acquired the memo. In December, the corporate rolled parts of the New Glenn rocket from its manufacturing unit simply outdoors the gates of NASA’s Kennedy House Middle to a closing meeting hangar positioned about 9 miles away at Cape Canaveral House Pressure Station.

Inside that constructing, technicians linked the primary stage booster, which is flight {hardware}, with an higher stage Blue Origin has put aside for floor testing. The ultimate piece of the rocket to be added was a 23-foot-diameter (7-meter) payload fairing, the uppermost part of New Glenn designed to guard spacecraft through the preliminary section of launch.

Final week, Blue Origin lifted a construction simulating the rocket’s empty mass vertical utilizing the transporter-erector arm at Launch Advanced 36 (LC-36), a former Atlas launch pad Blue Origin took over in 2015. This was a closing validation of the lifting arm at LC-36 earlier than Blue Origin put an actual, or largely actual, rocket on the pad.

The first full-scale New Glenn rocket rolls out at Launch Complex 36.
Enlarge / The primary full-scale New Glenn rocket rolls out at Launch Advanced 36.

On Wednesday, floor crews rolled a completely assembled New Glenn rocket out of the hangar at LC-36 and up the ramp to the launch mount. Then, the hydraulic lifting arm raised the two-stage launcher vertically. At greater than 320 toes (98 meters) tall, New Glenn is without doubt one of the largest rockets ever seen on Florida’s House Coast, roughly the identical top as NASA’s House Launch System rocket and almost as tall because the Saturn V used within the Apollo program.

“The upending is one in a collection of main manufacturing and built-in take a look at milestones in preparation for New Glenn’s first launch later this yr,” Blue Origin officers wrote in an replace on Wednesday. “The take a look at marketing campaign allows our groups to follow, validate, and improve proficiency in car integration, transport, floor help, and launch operations.”

New Glenn can haul almost 100,000 kilos (45 metric tons) of payload into low-Earth orbit. For low-altitude orbits, this can be a weight class above the uppermost functionality of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket or SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket however beneath SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Blue Origin additionally plans to make use of the New Glenn rocket to launch lunar landers to the Moon for NASA’s Artemis program.

New Glenn’s first stage booster is reusable, and is designed to land on an offshore barge within the Atlantic Ocean, which can carry it again to the coast, much like the best way SpaceX recovers its Falcon 9 booster.

“The fairing is massive sufficient to carry three college buses,” Blue Origin mentioned. “Its reusable first stage goals for no less than 25 missions and can land on a sea-based platform positioned roughly 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) downrange.”

Blue Origin is now 24 years previous and employs round 11,000 individuals at areas across the nation, with main areas in Washington, Texas, Florida, and Alabama. Whereas the corporate has not but launched something into orbit, Blue Origin is engaged on a variety of initiatives other than rockets, together with cargo and human-rated lunar landers for NASA and a house tug that might transfer payloads into completely different orbits for the US navy. New Glenn is essential for all of those plans.

Blue Origin’s newest progress with New Glenn comes as Bezos’s house firm seems to be on the verge of shopping for United Launch Alliance from Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

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