On Sept. 12, Blue Origin owner and billionaire entrepreneur Jeff Bezos announced that his company is developing a family of heavy-lift rockets, called New Glenn, named in honor of John Glenn who was the first American to orbit Earth. The New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines. Burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, these are the same BE-4 engines that will power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket.
The two-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. The third-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall. A single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants.
Bezos says the plan is to fly New Glenn for the first time before the end of this decade from the Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Fla. New Glenn is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space. The company claims the three-stage variant – with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage – is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions.
For a detailed report on the commercial space race, don’t miss Donna Dawson’s article, The emerging commercial space industry