Blue Origin Showcases Its Towering New Glenn Rocket As It Readies For Launch

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Blue Origin’s New Glenn, named after the first American astronaut to orbit the Moon, John Glenn, is upright on a launch pad for the first time. The advanced heavy-lift vehicle will support both customer missions and Blue Origin programs, including returning to the Moon as part of NASA’s historic Artemis program.

While New Glenn won’t be lifting off while on the launch pad this go round, it is the real deal, minus the engines. Blue Origin will put the space vehicle through a series of manufacturing and integrated test milestones to prepare for a launch scheduled later this year. The company remarked, “The test campaign enables our teams to practice, validate, and increase proficiency in vehicle integration, transport, ground support, and launch operations.” The engines are currently undergoing hotfiring tests at the 4670 Test Stand in Huntsville and Launch Site One in West Texas.
The engines that will power New Glenn into space will be seven BE-4 engines, which Blue Origin says is the “most powerful liquid oxygen (LOX)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine developed since Saturn V’s F1 engines.” The team performed its first-ever hotfire of the BE-4 engine three weeks ago at Test Stand 4670 in Huntsville. According to Blue Origin, the BE-4 engine produces 550,000 pounds of thrust.

It was not a quick trip to the launch pad for the New Glenn team. The journey began in December and will conclude in the coming weeks after the team has performed several demonstrations of cryogenic fluid loading, pressure control, and the vehicle’s venting systems.

new glenn on way to launch pad
New Glenn on its way to launch pad.

The company has several New Glenn vehicles in production and already has a full customer manifest. Those customers include NASA, Project Kuiper, Telesat, and Eutelsat, and others. Blue Origin is also certifying New Glenn with the US Space Force for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program in order to meet what it refers to as “emerging national security objectives.”

Along with the New Glen spacecraft, Blue Origin was also awarded a NextSTEP-2 Appendix P Sustaining Lunar Development (SLD) contract. Under this contract, the company will develop and fly both a lunar lander, similar to Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander that successfully landed on the lunar surface this week, and a cislunar transporter.