Blue Origin, the space travel company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, unveiled the newest addition to its reusable rocket lineup Monday, and it’s enormous.
Named after John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth, the New Glenn rockets will tower an amazing 84 feet over the Falcon Heavy designed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Bezos told Space.com.
“Our vision is millions of people living and working in space, and New Glenn is a very important step.”
The New Glenn rockets, capable of lifting both astronauts and cargo into space, come in two and three-stage versions; the company plans to reuse the first stage booster of each launcher, Bezos told the SFGate.
“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.”
Bezos plans to launch the new set of reusable rockets from Cape Canaveral sometime before the end of this decade.
The first stage of both rockets is designed to fall back to Earth, where it will again fire off its thrusters and gently lower itself to the ground. It will then be reused, saving millions.
The height of the rocket depends on whether it’s equipped with one or two upper stages.
New Glenn 3-Stage
The largest rocket towers 313 feet into the air and measures 23 feet in diameter, half the size of a school bus, and is powered by seven BE-4 engines spewing 3.85 millions pounds of thrust.
Burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, these are the same engines the United Launch Alliance uses in its new Vulcan rocket.
The third stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine that uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel.
This massive rocket was designed for longer missions past low-Earth orbit into deep space. It’s capable of reaching the moon and resupplying any lunar colony established there in the next few years.
New Glenn 2-Stage
The second rocket is 270 feet tall, and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimized BE-4 engine. Without the additional rocket stage, the launcher is limited to boosting astronauts and satellites into low-Earth orbit.
The booster and second stage are the same for both rockets.
Although incredibly large, the New Glenn rockets won’t be the most powerful boosters in the space race, that honor goes to the upcoming Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX that boasts five million pounds of thrust.
In comparison, the Delta IV Heavy rocket from the ULA is capable of two million pounds of thrust.
Bezos also teased out the name of another rocket on Blue Origin’s production line: the New Armstrong. However, no further details were released.
For now, the development of the massive New Glenn rockets means Blue Origin will move past its current status as a space tourism company and enable it to become a major player in the space race.
— SpaceNews (@SpaceNews_Inc) September 8, 2016
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has successfully launched and landed the New Shepard rocket into suborbital space four times from its West Texas site. The next test, announced last week, will be an in-flight abort test, where the company plans to eject the crew capsule.
The spacecraft is designed to carry six people into low-Earth orbit, where they can experience about four minutes of weightlessness before plummeting back to Earth where a series of parachutes will help them land safely.
The space travel company isn’t known for sharing a lot of information with the public, preferring instead to keep its plans secret until right before launch time, as Bezos wrote in a statement to the SFGate.
“Our mascot is the tortoise. We paint one on our vehicles after each successful flight. Our motto is ‘Gradatim Ferociter’ – step by step, ferociously. We believe ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast.'”
[Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Images]