Owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin has postponed the first launch of its New Glenn orbital launch vehicle to late 2022. The company called the Pentagon’s key contract lost to rival companies SpaceX and United Launch Alliance as the reason for the delay.
New Glenn is a huge, semi-reusable, heavy two- or three-stage launch vehicle designed to launch various cargoes into space for both US national security and commercial customers. The first flight of the car was previously scheduled for 2021.
“Current target of first flight New Glenn – IV quarter of 2022, – said in a statement from the company. – Team Blue Origin in close contact with all of our customers have aligned this new deadline with their launch needs. “
Blue Origin founder and richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, poured billions of dollars into the New Glenn program, which included the construction of an extensive rocket production facility at Cape Canaveral and an extensive renovation of Launch Complex 36 in Florida.
The company claimed victory in the Air Force’s next-generation national security program, which guaranteed the top two missile companies multibillion-dollar contracts and a share of all Pentagon launches between 2022 and 2027. The Air Force announced its decision last year – Blue Origin lost to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin).
“The loss of this contract was a big blow for us.”Jarrett Jones, Blue Origin’s senior vice president of the New Glenn program, told SpaceNews. According to him, Blue Origin has already spent $ 3 billion on the New Glenn project, including on adapting the rocket to send satellites for the Pentagon. And when the BBC handed over the lucrative contract to other companies, the leadership had to rethink the economy. “We hope to launch payloads in the future [в интересах американских военных] and remain committed to serving the US National Defense Mission, Blue Origin said in a statement.
However, Mr. Bezos, freed from the shackles of Amazon after announcing his decision to step down as chief executive, is now expected to become more involved in running Blue Origin, which he founded in 2000. He said he sold $ 1 billion worth of Amazon stock in 2017 to help fund Blue Origin.
Although Blue Origin still hasn’t entered orbit and lags far behind SpaceX, which was founded in 2002, the company has been strengthening its position in the space industry in recent years. The company is currently actively participating in the US lunar program “Artemis”, which aims to return people to the moon. Specifically, Blue Origin is developing the Blue Moon lunar lander and is fighting to secure this contract with SpaceX.
Another important line of business for the company is its BE-4 liquid propellant rocket engine, which runs on a methane-oxygen mixture. New Glenn’s first stage, designed for vertical jet landing, should use seven such engines. It also underpins the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan missile – the one that beat New Glenn in the lucrative Pentagon contract. Vulcan is slated to launch in late 2021. And after some development delays last year, Blue Origin is expected to ship the finished BE-4 motors to ULA in mid-2021.
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