In BriefBlue Origin intends to launch their massive New Glenn rocket in 2020, and so far, that timeframe seems achievable. The company is well on their way to having their rocket, launch pad, and landing procedure all in place by the proposed deadline.
Blue Origin officially unveiled their New Glenn rocket in September 2016, and with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space company making solid progress on their launch plan in recent months, all signs point toward a 2020 debut for the massive heavy lift launch vehicle.
Currently, Blue Origin is in the process of creating a specialized launch facility at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for the rocket.
The previous pad situated at Launch Complex 36 (LC-36) was completely demolished, allowing the agency to tailor its replacement to the craft. Scott Henderson, the director of Orbital Launch Operations for Blue Origin, recently confirmed in an update to the USAF Space & Missile Museum Volunteers that Blue Origin is driving poles 60 meters (200 feet) long into the ground to support the new build.
Blue Origin is also making arrangements for the New Glenn rocket’s landing. They’re reportedly close to finalizing the purchase of a large ship that the rocket’s boosters will land upon once they have served their purpose during the launch of the vessel.
Getting the LC-36 site and the landing ship ready isn’t all Blue Origin is doing to prepare for New Glenn’s launch. They’re also preparing the neighboring LC-11 site to host extensive testing of the craft’s BE-4 engines.
Seven of those engines will be used for the first two stages of a New Glenn launch, while the older BE-3 model will be responsible for the third stage.
The company announced the first successful hot-fire test of the BE-4 last month, but the LC-11 site will give them the opportunity for far more extensive testing. Once the site is ready, Blue Origin plans to conduct up to nine testing sessions monthly, with the engines operational for a maximum of 30 minutes each month.
Blue Origin’s space program is extremely ambitious, but the fact that everything is right on schedule suggests that the company hasn’t bitten off more than they can chew.