A look at Blue Origin’s upcoming plans


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Two stories today give us a peek at Blue Origin’s future plans.

The first outlines how the company plans to launch its orbital rocket, New Glenn, from Florida. The second provides a photo tour of the company’s suborbital New Shepard capsule, as designed for tourist flights.

I must mention that I have been disappointed at the lack of test flights for New Shepard in recent months. Their last flight was in October, almost six months ago, when their test of the capsule’s launch abort system was supposedly a success. No tests since, even though they have said they planned the first manned test flights this year. I am beginning to wonder if they have decided to shift resources to the orbital system and thus slow the suborbital program down.

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4 comments

  • Tom Billings

    As to shifting resources, another possibility has opened as well. That is, the reworking of New Shepard as a lunar lander, as per the plan Bezos recently spoke about for Trump’s lunar 2020 desires. Either or both orbital and lunar foci are now possible, or they could launch a crew next month on New Shepard. Yes, this lack of ramping up of activity is a bit disappointing in the short-term. Longer term, it *might* be a better way to go, if the commitment of resources is stable over the next 4+ years.

    Once you have some capable tech like BE-3 and BE-4, the temptation to do everything right now becomes stronger. Bezos certainly has the financial resources, though it is very possible to strain his technical resources in the short-term. Observing the path among all these possibilities that BO takes will tell us something about its future.

  • LocalFluff

    I never liked their suborbital tourist idea, a couple of minutes in weightlessness. A rocket driven roller coaster on a hydrogen rocket. Maybe it was seriously intended? Or rather, maybe it (the rocket) was seriously intended.

  • Edward

    LocalFluff wrote: “I never liked their suborbital tourist idea, … Maybe it was seriously intended?

    Virgin Galactic demonstrated that there is a market for suborbital tourism; hundreds of people want to have the experience. Blue Origin and XCOR were also approached by researchers who want to do experiments on sounding rockets (suborbital rockets), even experiments that were best performed while accompanied by the researchers, and these rockets would also enable short-term zero-g experiments that require human test subjects.

    Income from these launches can also help to finance the next generation of rocket, the New Glenn, while providing the company with valuable operational experience and knowledge.

    Starting small and working up to big is used across most or all industries as a tried and true method of generating current revenue yet being able to finance new development, all while learning the ropes of the enterprise. In this case, I mean “small” to be suborbital manned space. By starting large, by which I mean orbital, a company could go out of business before it gets its first payload. SpaceX came close to having this happen to them for unmanned payloads.

    Please notice that the only companies working on manned orbital spacecraft are doing so on government contracts with milestone payments. Blue Origin does not have the luxury of milestone payments during its development phase, so maybe we can consider space tourism to be the equivalent of milestone payments.

  • Frank

    “Alexa, take me to outer space.”
    “OK. I’ll put that on your Amazon Prime account. Have a nice flight.”

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