Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, is still in the final testing phase of its suborbital New Shepard rocket. However, the company is already working on an orbital rocket called the New Glenn, due for a first launch in 2020.
The New Glenn will come in two versions, a two-stage model that will be a workhorse satellite launcher, and a three-stage version designed for more challenging missions, such as launching payloads into deep space. When the rocket becomes operational it will launch from LC-36 at Cape Canaveral. New Glenn will compete for launch contracts with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, the Delta IV Heavy, and the Vulcan, which is still under development.
Similar to the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, the first stage of the New Glenn will be reusable. When it completes its burn and separates from the rest of the rocket, the first stage will land on a barge in the Atlantic. The stage will then be brought back to the Blue Origin Cape Canaveral facility to be refurbished and reused.
Bezos has invested $2.5 billion so far in the development of the New Glenn. The rocket has contracted for eight launches so far. Blue Origin is soliciting the United States military to provide further funding for the New Glenn for Defense Department missions.
Besides military and commercial payloads, Bezos envisions New Glenn as the launch vehicle of the Blue Moon lunar lander. Blue Origin is keenly interested in participating in a joint venture with NASA to return to the moon under a commercial partnership arrangement recently announced by the space agency.
New Glenn could also take paying customers on orbital trips around the Earth, providing an even more profound space tourism experience than the suborbital New Shepard. Customers who have already flown on the New Shepard will be given priority for such flights.