New Glenn

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New Glenn
New Glenn.svg
Function Reusable orbital launcher
Manufacturer Blue Origin
Country of origin United States
Height 2-stage: 95 m (313 ft)
Diameter 7 m (23 ft)
Stages 2
Payload to LEO 45,000 kg (99,000 lb)[1][2]
Payload to GTO 13,000 kg (29,000 lb)[1][2]
Associated rockets
Launch history
Status In development
Launch sites Cape Canaveral LC-36
First stage
Diameter 7 m (23 ft)
Engines 7 × BE-4
Thrust 17.1 MN (3,850,000 lbf)
Fuel Methane / LOX
Second stage
Diameter 7 m (23 ft)
Engines 2 × BE-3U
Thrust 980 kN (220,000 lbf)
Fuel H2 / LOX

The New Glenn is a heavy lift orbital launch vehicle in development by Blue Origin. Design work on the vehicle began in 2012. The vehicle itself, and the high-level specifications, were initially publicly unveiled 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.[3]

Blue Origin aims to launch New Glenn in 2021.[4]


After initiating the development of an orbital rocket system prior to 2012, Blue Origin publicly announced their orbital launch vehicle plans in September 2015.[5] 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.[6] Blue Origin publicly released the high-level design of the vehicle—and announced the name New Glenn—in September 2016.[3]

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.[7]

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.[7]

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 (BE-3U) was conducted at a NASA test facility in October 2012. The chamber successfully achieved full thrust of 100,000 pounds-force (about 440 kN).[8] By early 2018,[9] it was announced that the BE-3U hydrolox engine would power the second stage of the New Glenn.[10]

Orbital launch vehicle

Design work on the vehicle began in 2012, with the beginning of BE-4 engine development. 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".[11][12] It was stated to be a two-stage-to-orbit liquid-propellant rocket,[5] with the launcher intended to be reusable.[13] In early 2016, Blue Origin indicated that the first orbital launch was expected no earlier than 2020 from the Florida launch facility,[12] and in September 2017 continued to forecast a 2020 debut.[14]

The vehicle itself, and the high-level specifications, were initially publicly unveiled in September 2016. New Glenn was described as a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft), two- or three-stage rocket, with the first and second stages being liquid methane/liquid oxygen (methalox) designs using Blue Origin engines. The first stage will be powered by seven Blue Origin BE-4 engines, while the second stage was to have been powered by a single upper stage variant of that same basic design. The first stage is reusable and will land vertically, just like the New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle that preceded it. The third stage of the initial design was to have used a single BE-3 hydrolox engine.[3] Although these plans would subsequently change, the 2016 plans called for the first stage to be powered by Blue Origin's BE-4 single-shaft oxygen-rich staged combustion[15] liquid methane/liquid oxygen rocket engine, while the second-stage would be powered by a vacuum-variant of the BE-4, the BE-4U. Blue Origin announced that they intended to launch the rocket from Launch Complex 36, and manufacture the rockets at a new facility being built after 2015 on nearby land in Exploration Park. Acceptance testing of the BE-4 engines was also announced to be planned for Florida.[13]

In the event, by 2018, the launch vehicle design had changed. New Glenn became a two-stage launch vehicle, losing the third stage option planned in the initial 2016 announcement, and the second stage will now be powered by two upper stage versions of the BE-3 tap-off cycle liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engine.[9]

Blue explained in the 12 September 2016 announcement that the rocket would be named New Glenn in honor of the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, John Glenn.[3][16]

Three weeks of wind tunnel testing of a scale model New Glenn were completed in September 2016 in order to validate the CFD design models of transonic and supersonic flight.[17][18]

In March 2017, Jeff Bezos showed graphics of the New Glenn which had 4 large "strakes" (rotatable fins) at the bottom of the booster (not shown in the Sept 2016 images top right).[19]

In the September 2017 announcement, Blue 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.[14]

By April 2018, eight launches for New Glenn had been contracted: five for OneWeb, one each for Eutelsat, mu Space Corp and SKY Perfect JSAT.[20][14][21][10]

By mid-2018, the detailed design was not yet complete and the likelihood of achieving an initial launch by 2020 was being called into question by company engineers, customers and Reuters journalist Eric Johnson,[22] and also by "industry experts" and Ars Technica space journalist Eric Berger.[23]

In October 2018, the Air Force announced Blue Origin was awarded $500 million for development of New Glenn as a potential competitor in future contracts, including EELV Phase 2.[24]

Description and technical specifications

The first hotfire-tested Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine, serial number 103, at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 2018, showing the liquid methane inlet side of the engine.

The New Glenn is a 7-meter-diameter (23 ft) two-stage orbital launch vehicle with a reusable first stage.[10] An optional third stage was envisaged with a single BE-3U engine, however that option was removed when the second stage changed to two BE-3U engines.

The first stage is designed to be reusable for up to 100 missions,[1][2] 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.[9] 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.[1] Dual-satellite launches will be offered after the first five flights.[25]

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.[1] The second stage will be powered by two BE-3U engines, also designed and manufactured by Blue. BE-3Us are an expander cycle variant of the BE-3 engine are explicitly designed for use in upper stages.[26] Preliminary design numbers from 2015 projected the BE-3U to have a vacuum thrust of 670 kilonewtons (150,000 lbf).[27]

Launches of the New Glenn are planned to be made from Spaceport Florida Launch Complex 36, which was leased to Blue Origin in 2015.[3][12] New Glenn will also be available for space tourism flights, with priority given to customers of New Shepard.[28] The first stage boosters of New Glenn are intended to be reusable, and will be recovered downrange on the Atlantic Ocean via the Blue Origin landing platform ship acting as a floating movable landing platform. The hydrodynamically-stabilized ship increases the likelihood of successful recovery in rough seas.[10]


The main assembly of the New Glenn launch vehicle will occur in the Blue Origin rocket manufacturing facility in Florida, near Launch Complex 36 which the company leased from Spaceport Florida.

Tooling and equipment for the factory began to be ordered and built in 2015. In July 2018, the build of the largest device, a 16-meter-tall (51 ft) x 41-meter-long (136 ft) x 13-meter-wide (43 ft) Ingersoll "Mongoose" cryogenic-tank and fairing fabrication machine, was completed after a 3-year design/build process. It will be installed in the Florida facility in Exploration Park later in 2018.[29] As of September 2018, Blue had invested over US$1 billion in its Florida manufacturing facility and launch site, and intends that much more going forward.[10]

Launch services

Blue will offer both single-payload dedicated flights and, after the fifth launch, dual-manifesting of large commsats to be transported to geostationary transfer orbit.[30]

All contracted launches from the start will feature a reusable first-stage, so just like the practice in commercial aircraft transport, landing conditions can affect the timing and flight parameters of a launch.[30]

Launch service customers

By 2018, Blue Origin had contracts in place with four customers for New Glenn flights. Eutelsat, Thailand startup mu Space Corp 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.[20][21][31]

Schedule-oriented launch cadence

Blue intends to contract for launch services a bit differently than contract options that have been traditionally offered in the commercial launch market. The company has stated they will contract to aim to have a regular launch cadence of up to eight times a year. If one of the payload providers for a multi-payload launch is not ready on time, Blue will hold to the launch timeframe, and fly the remaining payloads on time at no increase in price.[30]

This is different from how dual-launch manifested contracts are handled by Arianespace (Ariane V and Ariane 6) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (H-IIA and H3). SpaceX and International Launch Services offer only dedicated launch contracts.[30] It is unknown what this change to schedule certainty and launch prioritization. a change to the product mix on offer, will do to demand for Blue launch services.


The development and manufacture of the new two-or-three stage launch vehicle is being funded by Jeff Bezos, founder of, and the US Air Force.[3][32] New Glenn will receive $500 million in funding under the EELV program.[33] By September 2017, Bezos had invested US$2.5 billion into New Glenn.[14] As of 2018, Blue was aggressively hiring new talent, including 60 engineers who worked previously at SpaceX, to focus principally on New Glenn development.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Berger, Eric (March 7, 2017). "Blue Origin releases details of its monster orbital rocket". Ars Technica. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Foust, Jeff (March 7, 2017). "Eutelsat first customer for Blue Origin's New Glenn". SpaceNews.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bergin, Chris (September 12, 2016). "Blue Origin introduce the New Glenn orbital LV". Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (September 15, 2015). "Bezos Not Concerned About Competition, Possible ULA Sale". Space News. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  6. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (February 29, 2016). "Blue Origin: Quiet Plans for Spaceships". Retrieved March 5, 2016. [Blue Origin is] already more than three years into development of our first orbital vehicle ... Though it will be the small vehicle in our orbital family, it's still many times larger than New Shepard. [we] hope to share details about this first orbital vehicle this year
  7. ^ a b "About Blue". Blue Origin. Archived from the original on 25 March 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Blue Origin tests 100k lb LOX/LH2 engine in commercial crew program". NewSpace Watch. October 16, 2012. Retrieved October 17, 2012. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ a b c "Blue Origin switches engines for New Glenn second stage". March 29, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Burghardt, Thomas (September 20, 2018). "Building on New Shepard, Blue Origin to pump a billion dollars into New Glenn readiness". Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  11. ^ Berger, Eric (March 9, 2016). "Behind the curtain: Ars goes inside Blue Origin's secretive rocket factory". Ars Technica. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  12. ^ a b c Boyle, Alan (March 5, 2016). "Jeff Bezos lifts curtain on Blue Origin rocket factory, lays out grand plan for space travel that spans hundreds of years". GeekWire. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Harwood, William (September 15, 2015). "Jeff Bezos plans to boost humans into space from Cape Canaveral". CBS News. Retrieved September 17, 2015. Bezos: "You cannot afford to be a space-fairing civilization if you throw the rocket away every time you use it. ... We have to be focused on reusability, we have to be focused on lowering the cost of space."
  14. ^ a b c d Henry, Caleb (September 12, 2017). "Blue Origin enlarges New Glenn's payload fairing, preparing to debut upgraded New Shepard". SpaceNews. Retrieved October 25, 2017.
  15. ^ Clark, Stephen (September 17, 2014). "ULA taps Blue Origin for powerful new rocket engine". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  16. ^ Victor, Daniel (September 12, 2016). "Meet New Glenn, the Blue Origin Rocket That May Someday Take You to Space". The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  17. ^ Boyle, Alan (September 26, 2016). "Jeff Bezos says Blue Origin's New Glenn orbital rocket aces wind tunnel tests". GeekWire. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  18. ^ Bezos, Jeff (September 26, 2016). "Exciting results..." Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  19. ^ Jeff Bezos' interview at SATELLITE 2017 (23 min), circa March 2017.
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ a b "Blue Origin's orbital rocket in the running to receive U.S. military investment – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Johnson, Eric M. (August 2, 2018). "Bezos throws cash, engineers at rocket program as space race accelerates". Reuters. Retrieved August 4, 2018.
  23. ^ Berger, Eric (July 24, 2018). "Four huge rockets are due to debut in 2020—will any make it?". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 6, 2018. a sense of urgency in Europe about the need to begin flying the Ariane 6 to become more competitive with the likes of SpaceX ... Like ArianeGroup, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has developed a new rocket with the intention to compete with SpaceX.
  24. ^ Erwin, Sandra (2018-10-10). "Air Force awards launch vehicle development contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, ULA -". Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  25. ^ Henry, Caleb (July 12, 2018). "Blue Origin to offer dual launch with New Glenn after fifth mission". Space News. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  26. ^ BE-3 test update, Blue Origin, August 10, 2018, accessed August 15, 2018].
  27. ^ Meyerson, Rob (November 13, 2015). ISPCS 2015 Keynote (Speech). ISPCS. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  28. ^ Berger, Eric (October 6, 2016). "Blue Origin just validated the new space movement". Ars Technica.
  29. ^ Guerrero, Isaac (July 17, 2018). "Rockford-made machine to build parts for next-generation rockets". Rockford Star. Retrieved August 3, 2018. It took three years to design and manufacture the Sasquatch-sized machine, which stands 51 feet tall, 136 feet long and 43 feet wide. The machine ... will manufacture cryogenic tanks that will be filled with liquid oxygen and hydrogen to fuel rockets. The machine also will build fairings
  30. ^ a b c d Henry, Caleb (July 12, 2018). "Blue Origin to offer dual launch with New Glenn after fifth mission". SpaceNews. Retrieved August 5, 2018. Blue Origin’s McFarland said Blue Origin won’t let schedule disruptions with one payload impact the co-passenger in dual-launch missions, even if it means splitting the missions in two. “We are not going to [let this] hold back or delay a launch,” he said. “We are going for a cadence of up to eight times per year where we will launch. If we don’t have a second, we still go as a single. So that’s the plan, [with] the same price point for the launch service for the customer.”
  31. ^ Henry, Caleb (March 12, 2018). "Blue Origin signs Sky Perfect JSAT as fourth New Glenn launch customer". Space News. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  32. ^ Berger, Eric (September 12, 2016). "Why Bezos' rocket is unprecedented—and worth taking seriously". Ars Technica. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  33. ^

External links

  • Blue Origin web site
  • "Introducing New Glenn" by Blue Origin on
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