Blue Origin’s heavy-lift New Glenn rocket raised on launchpad for first time

Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket.
Blue Origin

Blue Origin’s heavy-lift New Glenn rocket has been raised on the launchpad for the first time as part of preparations for its maiden flight later this year.

The spaceflight company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos shared a photo (above) showing the rocket on the pad at Launch Complex 36 (LC-36) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“This milestone represents the first view of the advanced heavy-lift vehicle, which will support a multitude of customer missions and Blue Origin programs, including returning to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program,” the company said in a message this week.

The New Glenn will also be used for as many as 27 missions to deploy Amazon’s Project Kuiper internet satellites in the coming years in an initiative similar to SpaceX’s Starlink service.

Blue Origin described the launchpad placement as part of a test campaign that will enable its teams “to practice, validate, and increase proficiency in vehicle integration, transport, ground support, and launch operations.” It’ll remain on the launchpad for about a week.

It noted that the Kennedy-based tests do not require the New Glenn’s BE-4 engines, which have been undergoing hotfiring at NASA’s facility in Huntsville and Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas.

The new rocket stands at about 320 feet (98 meters). This includes a seven-meter payload fairing with twice the volume of standard five-meter class commercial launch systems. To put that in perspective, the fairing is “large enough to hold three school buses,” Blue Origin said.

Its reusable first stage should be fit for at least 25 missions and, similar to SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, will land on a sea-based platform shortly after launch. Blue Origin describes New Glenn’s reusability as “integral to radically reducing cost-per-launch.”

New Glenn is named after John Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American to orbit Earth.

Responding to the rocket’s first time on the launchpad, Bezos wrote on Twitter: “Big year ahead. Let’s go!”

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