Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos reveals new rocket’s capabilities

Jeff Bezos revealed new details of his space company’s reusable orbital-class booster, announcing a contract with Eutelsat to put a commercial communications satellite on one of the launcher’s first missions. Bezos claimed Blue Origin’s towering New Glenn rocket, named for pioneering astronaut John Glenn, could launch by 2020 and be reused up to 100 times.

Paris-based Eutelsat is one of the largest satellite telecom operators in the world. “Eutelsat is one of the world’s most experienced and innovative satellite operators, and we are honored that they chose Blue Origin and our New Glenn orbital launch vehicle,” Bezos said.

The New Glenn’s primary base will be at Cape Canaveral, where Blue Origin is constructing a cavernous rocket factory just outside the gates of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Blue Origin has started preliminary earthmoving work for a launch pad at Complex 36, a former Atlas rocket facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and plans to install an engine test stand at neighboring Complex 11.

The first fully-assembled BE-4 engine.

Blue Origin held a patent on its plans to land rocket boosters on ships in the ocean using rocket thrust to slow the vehicles down for landing, but SpaceX disputed the validity of the patent claims by pointing to academic papers and proposals dating back decades outlining concepts to recover rockets on ocean-going vessels for refurbishment and reuse.

Eutelsat has taken chances on new rockets before, placing its satellites on the inaugural launches of the Atlas 3, Atlas 5, Delta 4 and Ariane 5 ECA boosters in the early 2000s. Eutelsat said the contract with Blue Origin “reflects Eutelsat’s longstanding strategy to source launch services from multiple agencies in order to secure access to space.” The New Glenn launcher will be compatible with “virtually all” of its satellites, allowing the company to assign a spacecraft to the mission 12 months ahead of time.

“Blue Origin has been forthcoming with Eutelsat on its strategy and convinced us they have the right mindset to compete in the launch service industry,” said Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat. “Their solid engineering approach, and their policy to develop technologies that will form the base of a broad generation of launchers, corresponds to what we expect from our industrial partners”.

“In including New Glenn in our manifest, we are pursuing our longstanding strategy of innovation that drives down the cost of access to space and drives up performance,” Belmer said in a statement. “This can only be good news for the profitability and sustainability of our industry.”

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