But for the most part, Blue Origin is falling behind its peers. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket (reusable and capable of going completely into orbit) has flown over 100 missions, with remarkable success since 2016. Its Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket today. Even the smallest businesses can claim to have more business than Blue Origin. Rocket Lab, for example, has nearly perfected the design of its lightweight Electron rocket, which features 3D printed motors that are cheaper and faster to manufacture. In 18 missions, Electron delivered more satellites to space than Blue Origin. And he’s already planning to send a probe to Venus in a few years.
Blue Origin could catch up, however. Several new projects underway could position the company to finally start competing directly with SpaceX and others, and generate stable revenue from a steady line of customers (more sell Amazon stock to fund he). Getting Bezos more involved in daily life could be a big plus in securing these customers and signing contracts that really put the company on the map.
Here are the six ongoing Blue Origin projects that Bezos could support now that he has more free time.
Human space flight
New Shepard was developed with one major goal in mind: to send people safely and inexpensively into space on suborbital missions, where they could spend a few minutes in microgravity and enjoy the view of the planet from within. high. In its current design, it should be able to take six passengers on these missions at a time.
The company was hoping for a crewed New Shepard flight in 2019. This did not happen. And the pandemic has put a halt to most of the company’s launch activities in 2020. Everyone is patiently waiting to see if 2021 is the golden year, but it seems pretty unlikely at the moment.
There is nothing Bezos himself can do to speed up the testing and development of New Shepard and prepare it for manned space flight. But in the same way that Musk is an evangelist to spark interest in SpaceX, Bezos could play the same role by being the salesman that he is, by attracting people interested in booking space tickets and making know the work of the company more aggressively. If Blue Origin wants to dominate the space tourism market, this is the best time.
Launch New Glenn
New Glenn is where the real fun begins. Like the Falcon Heavy, New Glenn is a heavy transport rocket with a reusable first stage thruster, intended to send satellites into orbit. The company is targeting the inaugural launch of New Glenn this year.
Again, there is nothing Bezos can do to speed up this timeline. But what he could do is spend more time lashing out at customers. Right now, Blue Origin has a handful of contracts to launch commercial satellites. But it will take a constant stream of missions to justify New Glenn’s existence and start making money. Now would be a good time for Bezos to use those billionaire connections.
Satellites, satellites, satellites
And there should be a lot of interested customers. It’s cheaper than ever to build a satellite. We can make them lighter and more compact than ever, so it’s much easier to send them into space.
When New Glenn begins to fly he should take inspiration from SpaceX and consider carpooling missions that launch dozens, if not hundreds of payloads into orbit at a time. Executives might want to start preparing for such a strategy if they hope to be a significant player in the launch vendor market.
Speaking of satellites, we’re about to see Blue Origin launch a lot more of its own payloads into orbit once New Glenn can fly. Presentation Kuiper Project: an Amazon spin-off that wants to set up a constellation of satellites to provide high-speed Internet access to people around the world. It sounds familiar, no?
While the constellation of 3,236 satellites proposed by Kuiper will be far smaller than the 12,000 Starlink satellites that SpaceX plans to launch, that is still a high number. And maybe Bezos can use Kuiper’s late arrival to avoid SpaceX’s mistakes with Starlink – namely, no. disrupt astronomy around the world, and find ways to deal with all this orbital congestion to allay fears of collisions that could turn Earth’s orbit into a dangerous minefield. While we can expect Blue Origin to play a big role in Kuiper satellite launches, Bezos has said he’s ready to use other rockets if necessary, so now might be a good time to see. what is available.
Blue Moon and Artemis
Blue Origin doesn’t just want to stay in Earth orbit. He wants to go to the moon. And he also wants to help NASA achieve that. One of the company’s biggest projects is Blue Moon, a lunar lander that is supposed to transport goods as well as people. Blue Origin is working with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper on a larger concept that they say NASA could use to safely bring astronauts to the surface as part of its Artemis program. Parts of the system would be reusable and should integrate well with NASA’s Gateway space station in lunar orbit.
The proposal led by Blue Origin seems better placed to be selected by NASA than that of SpaceX (although Dynetics also impressed the agency). But NASA under the Biden administration has delayed selection of a lunar lander because it reassesses the schedule of the Artemis program and the 2024 objective of a lunar mission.
Its good! This gives Blue Origin more time to properly test Blue Moon, work more closely with its partners on the project, and perhaps find other ways to leverage these technologies for other applications.
Finally, one of Blue Origin’s greatest strengths has been its rocket engines, especially the BE-4. Each new Glenn rocket will use the BE-4 engine, just like United Launch Alliance’s upcoming Vulcan rocket (you don’t always see a rocket company turning to its competitor for parts). The engine will go into space later this year for the first time, either on Vulcan or New Glenn.
Once again, Bezos could play a bigger role in getting other aerospace companies to start incorporating BE-4 more widely into their own systems.