New Glenn as presented in September 2016
|Function||Reusable orbital launcher|
|Country of origin||United States|
2 stage: 86 m (283 ft) |
3 stage: 99 m (326 ft)
|Diameter||7 m (23 ft)|
|Stages||2 or 3|
|Payload to LEO||45,000 kg (99,000 lb)|
|Payload to GTO||13,000 kg (29,000 lb)|
|Launch sites||Cape Canaveral LC-36|
|Diameter||7 m (23 ft)|
|Engines||7 × BE-4|
|Thrust||17.1 MN (3,850,000 lbf)|
|Fuel||Methane / LOX|
|Diameter||7 m (23 ft)|
|Engines||2 x BE-3U|
|Thrust||980 kN (220,000 lbf)|
|Fuel||H2 / LOX|
|Third (optional) stage|
|Diameter||7 m (23 ft)|
|Thrust||490 kN (110,000 lbf)|
|Fuel||H2 / LOX|
The New Glenn is a privately funded orbital launch vehicle in development by Blue Origin. It is expected to make its initial test launch in 2020. Design work on the vehicle began in 2012. The high-level specifications for the vehicle were publicly announced in September 2016. New Glenn is described as a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft), two- or three-stage rocket. Its first stage will be powered by seven BE-4 engines that are also being designed and manufactured by Blue Origin. Like the New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle that preceded it, the New Glenn's first stage is designed to be reusable.
After initiating the development of an orbital rocket system prior to 2012, Blue Origin publicly announced their orbital launch vehicle plans in September 2015. In January 2016, Blue Origin indicated that the new rocket would be many times larger than New Shepard even though it would be the smallest of the family of Blue Origin orbital vehicles. Blue Origin publicly released the high-level design of the vehicle—and announced the name New Glenn—in September 2016.
Early development work on orbital subsystems
Blue Origin began developing systems for orbital human spacecraft prior to 2012. A reusable first-stage booster was projected to fly a suborbital trajectory, taking off vertically like the booster stage of a conventional multistage rocket. Following stage separation, the upper stage would continue to propel astronauts to orbit while the first-stage booster would descend to perform a powered vertical landing similar to the New Shepard suborbital vehicle. The first-stage booster was to be refueled and launched again, allowing improved reliability and with the goal of lowering the cost of human access to space.
The booster rocket was projected to loft Blue Origin's biconic Space Vehicle capsule to orbit, carrying astronauts and supplies. After completing its mission in orbit, the Space Vehicle was designed to reenter Earth's atmosphere and land under parachutes on land, to be reused on future missions.
Engine testing for the (then named) Reusable Booster System (RBS) launch vehicle began in 2012. A full-power test of the thrust chamber for Blue Origin BE-3 liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen upper-stage rocket engine was conducted at a NASA test facility in October 2012. The chamber successfully achieved full thrust of 100,000 pounds-force (about 440 kN).
Orbital launch vehicle
Further plans for an orbital launch vehicle were made public in 2015. By March 2016, the rocket was referred to by the placeholder name of "Very Big Brother". It was stated to be a two-stage-to-orbit liquid-propellant rocket, with the launcher intended to be reusable. In early 2016, Blue Origin indicated that the first orbital launch was expected in 2020 from the Florida launch facility, and in September 2017 continued to forecast a 2020 debut.
Those plans called for the first stage to be powered by Blue Origin's BE-4 single-shaft oxygen-rich staged combustion liquid methane/liquid oxygen rocket engine. The number of engines powering each stage was not released, nor was the payload or gross launch weight specifications. Blue Origin intends to launch the rocket from Launch Complex 36 and manufacture the rockets at a new facility on nearby land in Exploration Park. Acceptance testing of the BE-4 engines will also be done in Florida. The second stage will be powered by two upper stage versions of the BE-3 tap-off cycle liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engine.
On 12 September 2016, Blue Origin announced that the rocket would be named New Glenn in honor of the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, and that the 7-meter-diameter (23 ft) first stage will be powered by seven Blue Origin BE-4 engines. The first stage is reusable and will land vertically, just like the New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle that preceded it.
In September 2017, Blue Origin announced a much larger payload fairing for New Glenn, this one 7 meters (23 ft) in diameter, up from 5.4 meters (18 ft) in the originally announced design.
Description and technical specifications
The New Glenn is a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft) two-stage orbital launch vehicle with an optional third stage and a reusable first stage. The first stage will be powered by seven BE-4 methane/oxygen engines—designed and manufactured by Blue Origin—producing 17,000 kN (3,800,000 lbf) of liftoff thrust.
The first stage is designed to be reusable for up to 100 missions, and will land vertically, a technology previously developed by Blue Origin and tested in 2015–2016 on its New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle. The second stage will share the same diameter as the first and use two BE-3U vacuum optimized engines. It will use hydrogen/oxygen as propellant and will be expendable. The optional third stage will use one BE-3U engine. This engine is manufactured by Blue Origin and has already been used on the New Shepard, as the "BE-3" sea-level-optimized version. The company has revealed the planned payload capacity of the 2-stage version of New Glenn as 13,000 kg (29,000 lb) to GTO and 45,000 kg (99,000 lb) to LEO. Dual-satellite launches will be offered after the first five flights.
Launches of the New Glenn are planned to be made from Spaceport Florida Launch Complex 36, which was leased to Blue Origin in 2015. New Glenn will also be available for space tourism flights, with priority given to customers of New Shepard.
Launch service customers
By 2018, Blue Origin had contracts in place with four customers for New Glenn flights. Eutelsat, Thailand startup mu Space Corporation and SKY Perfect JSAT have geosynchronous orbit commsat launches planned after 2020, while internet satellite constellation fleet operator OneWeb has an agreement for five launches.
The development and manufacture of the new two-or-three stage launch vehicle is being self-funded by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. By September 2017, Bezos had invested US$2.5 billion into New Glenn, none of it from the US government.
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