While SpaceX earns most of the headlines for booster recovery efforts, Blue Origin also plans to launch and recover their orbital rocket New Glenn as early as this year. Blue Origin currently has two rockets in various stages of development, and a sentimental step toward flying the larger of the two rockets was reached this week.
Blue Origin’s sub-orbital rocket New Shepherd currently flies and lands, but it’s still in a stage of testing before it flies paying customers to space and back. They also have been developing the heavy-lift New Glenn rocket that is already competing against SpaceX and ULA for commercial and government launch contracts.
New Glenn will launch from Blue Origin’s complex on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station which is not far from their New Glenn factory in Merritt Island, Florida. While New Glenn is almost 30 meters taller and twice as wide as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, Blue Origin plans to only recover the first stage in a similar fashion to SpaceX.
SpaceX typically chooses names based on science fiction and puns compared to Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos who chooses to honor people (Alan Shepard, John Glenn). Continuing that tradition, Blue Origin will call its recovery ship Jacklyn in honor of Bezos’ mother.
The massive ship that has been transformed into a seafaring landing pad near Pensacola will be the equivalent to SpaceX’s droneship fleet used for landings. The only difference is instead of trying to stay stationed in the waves of the ocean, Jacklyn will continue moving to keep it as stable as possible for the New Glenn booster to make its landing attempts.
From the outside, things seem quiet at the Florida rocket factory, and this could very well be a good sign for Blue Origin nearing completion of the early development of the rocket before attempting to start testing flight models.
Blue Origin hopes to launch their first New Glenn rocket this year, and for the secretive company, anything is possible. What we do know is that Blue Origin’s new BE-4 engine that will power New Glenn is overcoming late stage development hiccups based on information shared by United Launch Alliance. ULA relies on the BE-4 engine for its new Vulcan rocket