Jeff Bezos’ Reusable Rocket Spotted In The Wild Near NASA’s Facilities

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Jeff Bezos’s rocket company, Blue Origin, is entering the final stages of the development cycle of its New Glenn heavy-lift rocket, according to footage from Florida close to NASA’s Kenndy Space Center in Florida. Like Falcon 9, New Glenn is a reusable rocket whose first-stage booster is designed for a propulsive vertical landing. However, unlike the Falcon 9, the rocket uses seven BE-4 rocket engines, which are more powerful than their Merlin counterparts, and according to Blue Origin, the rocket is designed to fly at least 25 times before it is retired.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn Heavy Lift Rocket Readies Itself To Kick Off Corporate Space Race

Right now, Blue Origin’s only operational rocket is the New Shepard suborbital rocket. Like the New Glenn, this rocket is also designed to land vertically, and so far, it has conducted 21 missions. The last New Shepard flight was in September 2022, and during the ascent portion, its rocket engine malfunctioned and led to the loss of the vehicle. Since then, the New Shepard has remained grounded, but chances are high that it will return to the sky soon after the FAA closed its mishap investigation in September.

While New Shepard is Blue Origin’s most successful rocket, New Glenn is the one that is central to the firm’s commercial success. It is designed to carry as much as 45 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO), which is nearly twice the capacity of the Falcon 9. Like SpaceX, Blue Origin will also use New Glenn to build out a satellite internet constellation and other missions, including a lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis program.

Now, the center stage of the New Glenn, without its engines mated, was caught by local media covering NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Like SpaceX, Blue Origin also makes its own engines, but unlike SpaceX, it also provides them to other companies.

The flight profile of the New Glenn is also quite similar to SpaceX’s workhorse, the Falcon 9. Like the Falcon, the rocket will perform a flip maneuver after first and second stage separation. Then, the booster lands vertically after a landing burn to reduce its speed. Unlike the Falcon 9, though, the New Glenn aims to attempt a landing for its first flight as well if our reading of publicly available information is correct. In contrast, SpaceX flew the Falcon 9 several times before testing a propulsive landing and conducting the first such maneuver on land.

Both firms have billionaires backing them, which provides them with hefty cash for funding expensive development. While little is known about Blue Origin’s development process, SpaceX’s rocket design sees the firm manufacture any component that it deems necessary in-house to reduce costs and speed up manufacturing.

Should the New Glenn fly successfully and become operational, then SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will be facing off a larger rocket that can also reduce costs over the long term by saving up on first-stage booster production. Yet, while the New Glenn promises to deliver 45 tons to LEO, SpaceX’s super-heavy Starship more than doubles this capacity by aiming for at least 100 tons.

Starship is the world’s largest rocket, and so far, SpaceX has conducted two test flights of the integrated rocket system. The tests have seen measured progression, as while the first test in April saw Starship successfully clear the pad, the second, conducted earlier this month, was the first time that its first and second stages successfully separated.

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