Published: Thu, March 09, 2017
Science | By Kerry Wheeler

Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket has its first customer

Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket has its first customer

Amazon's Jeff Bezos tweeted an image of the BE-4 rocket engine that could power Blue Origin's New Glenn spacecraft.

"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", said Bezos said in a statement.

"We were impressed by Blue Origin's industrial approach and are always looking for innovation in the industry that facilitates cost-efficient access to space", said Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O'Connor.

New Glenn is a follow-up program to Blue Origin's suborbital New Shepard launch system, a rocket and capsule created to fly payloads and passengers to about 62 miles above the planet.

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The privately funded rocket will mainly be propelled by seven BE-4 engines, each providing 550,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, according to Blue Origin's website.

Space company Blue Origin now has its first paying customer for a commercial launch, with European satellite company Eutelsat in 2021 or 2022. NASA is also working on a Space Launch System that can lift 70 tons.

There is something inherently exciting about watching a rocket takeoff and land. "We'll reach a new equilibrium in this industry". Bezos described the success of Amazon as a "lottery winning" - and says that he's now investing those winnings into Blue Origin. Bezos has said he has poured more than $500 million of his own money into it - but has received relatively little outside revenue. Arianespace, a French company, has launched half of Eutelsat's satellites.

The BE-4 and AR1 will employ a staged combustion cycle, a more efficient engine cycle than now available on other US liquid hydrocarbon rocket engines. Bezos' company has already tested this technology with its New Shepard rocket which can perform a vertical takeoff and landing. Until now, even some of the major American contractors were relying on the Russian-made RD-180 engines. A recent NASA "Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition" for buying additional Space Shuttle Main Engines states that a traditional engine development program will cost more than $2.2 billion. Standing at and impressive 82 meters (269 feet) tall, Blue Origin's design would see it lift up to 45 tons into low-Earth orbit, and 13 tons to geostationary orbit. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimated in 2003 that up to 82 percent of Americans had flown in an airplane, and Bezos wants going to space to become as common as hopping on a flight from one city to another.

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