If you didn’t already know it, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos isn’t just sitting at home all day counting his billions. He’s also keeping a close eye on Blue Origin, the private space company that he set up two decades ago.
It’s already performed multiple tests of its New Shepard reusable rocket system that it plans to use for space tourism trips in the near future.
But it’s also developing the New Glenn, a heavy-lift launch vehicle comparable to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which it wants to use to carry people and payloads to Earth orbit and beyond.
In recent days, Blue Origin has offered several updates on how things are going with the New Glenn, with new videos offering a peek at the test program for the booster’s upper stage engine, as well as a glimpse of the massive nose cone (below) that will sit atop the rocket and house payloads as they hurtle toward space for deployment.
The company also gave us a look at its recently completed and rather swish-looking Mission Control facility (below) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the Blue Origin team will monitor New Glenn test flights and missions, the first of which should take place in 2021.
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) March 11, 2020
Similar to SpaceX’s system, the New Glenn features a reusable first-stage booster designed to return to Earth and land on a drone ship shortly after launch. And it’s enormous too, standing at almost 100 meters, around 10 meters shorter than the Saturn V rocket that blasted astronauts toward the moon during the Apollo missions. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, by comparison, is “only” 70 meters tall, though its under-development Starship system, that includes the next-generation Super Heavy booster, has a height of 118 meters.
Notably, the New Glenn’s nose cone is so darn big (about 18 meters tall and 7 meters in diameter) that you can fit Blue Origin’s current New Shepard rocket inside it — not that they have any intention to do so, of course.
The uptick in news from Blue Origin suggests Bezos’s space company is making real progress with its next-generation reusable rocket system, and wants the world to know about it.
NASA, for one, is expecting much from Blue Origin, having invited it to contribute to the Artemis program, which is seeking to land the first woman and the next man on the moon in 2024, with an eye on eventual crewed missions to Mars.