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First launch of Blue Origin’s orbital rocket delayed to ’22

Capitalism in space: In what had increasingly appeared likely in recent months, Blue Origin today announced that it is delaying the first launch of its orbital New Glenn rocket from late this year to sometime in ’22.

Blue Origin noted that the updated timeline follows the U.S. Space Force to stop its support for the New Glenn development effort as part of its procurement program for national security launches. That support, which could have added up to $500 million, was closed out at the end of last year.

The Space Force ended up choosing United Launch Alliance and SpaceX for the next round of national security launches. Jarrett Jones, Blue Origin’s senior vice president for New Glenn, told Space News that losing out on that round of launch contracts represented a $3 billion hit to anticipated revenue, and forced the company to “re-baseline” its development plans.

Personally I think this excuse is absurd. Jeff Bezos has been investing about $1 billion per year in Blue Origin. Moreover, in its announcement the company claimed it has invested $2.5 billion of that money in developing New Glenn. This is almost as much as SpaceX has raised to build Starship/Super Heavy, which is in development and in only about two years has already produced multiple prototypes and two test flights. Moreover, SpaceX developed Falcon Heavy for about a half billion dollars, and did it in less than seven years.

New Glenn has been in development for more than four years, and we have yet to even see it assembled in any form at all. The loss of that government military contract should have made no difference if Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin were really serious about building this rocket. He has given the company more than enough investment capital to get it done. They have just not delivered so far.

If I was Bezos, I would be taking a very hard look at the management at Blue Origin, with the intent to make some significant changes.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

9 comments

  • Ray Van Dune

    If I was Elon Musk, I would be noting the latest non-developments at SLS, ULA and BO, and taking a hard look at human-rating Falcon Heavy. There’s gonna be a lotta heavy-lifting going un-lifted, before Starship / SuperHeavy is ready, especially ready for manned missions.

  • David Ross

    If Bezos was Bezos, he would be investing in Washington Post hitpieces against Musk and SpaceX, getting Amazon to run pro-Musk literature off the front page, and maybe even paying some trolls to post here.

  • Patrick Underwood

    What’s so wonderful is that SpaceX is privately held, so Musk and his investors are relatively immune to such propaganda.

    The recent funding round is evidence. People are climbing over each other to give Musk money.

  • George C

    Blue Origin makes the BE-4 engine which it is selling to ULA. Maybe it is better business to invest in the manufacturing and development of that component to maximize profit and to delay the whole rocket project. With the success of the CH4 fueled Raptor many rocket companies are going to want a CH4 fueled engine. Just thinkin’.

  • Jeff Wright

    I think Super Heavy should be human rated-with a scaled up Dream Chaser atop it. I don’t think Bezos will write hit pieces in his own name. He will pay trolls to go after SLS first to avoid push-back…but the ‘tell’ in those hit pieces will be the absence of SpaceX being mentioned much if at all. SLS always got hate from all sides-and was slow-walked from within. But BO shouldn’t have that problem-Bezos has had ample time to clear out the deadwood-and stop the paralysis of analysis.
    Frankly, I am to the point of questioning where he is a space advocate at all.
    Mr. Z lets us fight each other-and we fight because WE CARE. Does Bezos care? I wonder…

  • David M. Cook

    “Re-baselining”? That sure sounds like a NASA word! Bezos has had enough time to develop anything he wanted to by now. What he really wants is public money! Bezos is certainly NOT a space advocate!

  • mike shupp

    I wonder if Bezos might not have a people problem. The Seattle area was awash with aerospace talent — in terms of people and subtier supply firms — a few years ago, when Blue Origin was getting started. But Boeing’s decision to move its headquarters to Chicgo and decentralize its manufacturing around the world had probably lowered the level, People move, people retire without replacements being hired, machine shops shut down — that kind of thing. Not to denigrate Bezos or his people, but maybe the mixture of talent and experience he had expected to be available has fallen off.

  • Lee Stevenson

    I think the failure of Blue Origen to deliver might have a lot to do with Bezos stepping away from Amazon… Never mind all the sarcastic comments here, he is obviously a space nut, with goals similar to Elon. My guess is that he is going to leave his cash cow in a pair of safe hands, donate his charity to where he wants, ( which whatever you think of the causes he supports, and I know there are a lot of opponents of his environmental beliefs here… But it’s his money.. and giving some away can’t do much harm..), and I expect to see a much more “hands on” approach to Blue Origen in the very near future. The guy is obviously a genius on the same level as Musk, They are obviously in competition in the space race… I’m fully expecting a shake up and rapid advancement in BO very shortly! ( And is it not wonderful that we are talking about big players in the private space industry… A conversation that wouldn’t even have been thinkable 20 years ago.. props to the US !)

  • Jeff Wright

    There is a disconnect. In the past you had a wealth of talent-but no internet billionaires to fund them. By the time Boston Robotics wowed us, Asimov was just bones. Bradbury never got to see Starship-that looked just like he thought a Mars ship should. It isn’t fair. I’m tearing up typing this.
    You want to know the real reason I still support expendables? Because there is a part of me that believes that is all the universe will allow.
    The Saturns were totem beasts-the stagings were sacrifices…self immolation the price of admission into the heavens –
    – mission control? The Chorus…the call-outs the chants. And then Musk shows us this gleaming idol of our dreams…and still, I cannot quite believe it. So I still want the fall back. The universe is cruel.

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