Blue Origin's New Glenn testing

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Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket is undergoing a series of significant testing milestones in preparation for its inaugural launch later this year. The New Glenn vehicle, named after John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, represents Blue Origin's entry into the heavy-lift launch market. Standing over 320 feet tall, with a seven-meter payload fairing, New Glenn is designed to support a wide range of missions, including NASA's Artemis program for lunar exploration. Its first stage is intended to be reusable, capable of landing on a sea-based platform approximately 620 miles downrange, with a goal of achieving a minimum of 25 missions to significantly reduce cost-per-launch. The rocket is powered by seven BE-4 engines, which are the most powerful liquid oxygen/liquefied natural gas engines developed since the Saturn V's F1 engines1. The recent testing campaign includes the vehicle's first roll out and upending at Launch Complex 36 (LC-36), without requiring engines for these specific tests. The engines are concurrently undergoing hotfire tests at the historic 4670 Test Stand in Huntsville and Launch Site One in West Texas. The upcoming tests will focus on vehicle integration, transport, ground support, and launch operations, including demonstrations of cryogenic fluid loading, pressure control, and venting systems. The launch pad and ground systems, now complete, will be activated for the first time during this test campaign12. Blue Origin's CEO, David Limp, has expressed confidence in meeting the target launch date by the end of the year, highlighting the progress in manufacturing multiple boosters, fairings, and second stages. The New Glenn vehicle has already attracted a full customer manifest, including significant contracts with NASA for the ESCAPADE mission to Mars, and with Amazon for up to 27 launches for the Project Kuiper satellite internet constellation2. The New Glenn test vehicle used in the current testing phase includes all Blue Origin hardware, though not all components will go to space. The second stage and payload fairing are stand-ins, and the BE-4 engines are not included in the test vehicle but are undergoing separate testing. The integrated tanking test, a key part of the current campaign, will involve fueling the booster with liquid nitrogen to verify the functionality of the fluid systems2. In preparation for the first launch, Blue Origin has been actively testing and integrating the first and second stages of the New Glenn vehicle. The company has faced delays but remains optimistic about a 2024 launch. The BE-4 and BE-3U engines, crucial to the rocket's propulsion, are undergoing rigorous testing, with the BE-4 engines having already demonstrated their capabilities in the successful launch of United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket4. Blue Origin's approach to reusability, with plans for the first stage to land on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean, mirrors SpaceX's booster recovery strategy but with ambitions for a rapid turnaround time between flights. The company is constructing a booster refurbishment facility near LC-36 to support this goal. New Glenn's operations will initially feature expendable upper stages, with three second stages already completed and more in production5. In summary, Blue Origin's New Glenn is making strides towards its first launch with a comprehensive testing campaign that includes vehicle integration, ground support, and launch operations. The company's focus on reusability, powered by the innovative BE-4 engines, positions New Glenn as a significant player in the future of space exploration and satellite deployment.
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