Today morning, CEO of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos discovered some new details about his company’s future orbital rocket, the New Glenn touting the vehicle’s reusability and how much it will be able to carry into space. He also displayed a shiny new animation of what the reusable rocket’s journey will look like during a typical mission, and it certainly looks familiar.
The main portion of the New Glenn will be powered by seven of Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines and is designed to land back on Earth after launching into space. In the video, which Bezos released at a satellite developer’s conference in Washington, DC, the New Glenn takes off from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Blue Origin’s finished manufacturing facility, which is currently being built at the Cape, can be seen in the forefront as the rocket shoots toward the sky.
While in space, the top portion of the New Glenn will separate from the rest of the vehicle and send whatever payload it’s carrying into orbit. The main body of the rocket will head back to Earth. It will be steered downward using fins attached to the sides of the rocket and then land on a boat platform out in the ocean. Comparisons to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 ocean landings were immediately made online after the video was shown, but to be fair, it’s not as if Blue Origin is just now jumping on the reusability train. The company’s New Shepard vehicle is designed to carry tourists to and from the edge of space. It was launched and landed back on the solid ground multiple times last year.
Plus, Blue Origin has been meaning to land rockets on boats for a while now. The company applied for a patent in 2010 called “Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods,” which basically sketched out the whole concept of rockets landing on floating platforms. Blue Origin has issued the patent in 2014, but SpaceX challenged the ruling in August of that year, essentially contenting that the idea was unable to be patented since many people had come up with the concept before. SpaceX was able to show evidence of this something known as “prior art” and ultimately Blue Origin canceled the majority of its claims under the patent.
According to reporters at the conference, the first version of the vehicle will be able to carry close to 100,000 pounds into lower Earth orbit, and nearly 29,000 pounds to a much higher orbit 22,000 miles up known as geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). SpaceX’s future Falcon Heavy, a larger variant of the Falcon 9, will supposedly be able to carry more to lower Earth orbit and GTO. The New Glenn will also be equipped with six landing legs, and Bezos says the vehicle can still land properly if one of the legs malfunctions.