After years of trying, Blue Origin has finally been able to secure a launch task order through NASA for its New Glenn rocket, and it’s going to Mars!
Blue Origin New Glenn to launch NASA ESCAPADE mission
Selected through NASA’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract, which offers newer launchers options to launch NASA payloads on early flights, New Glenn will get its first NASA launch task order. Going by the name ESCAPADE, which stands for Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, will study Mars’ magnetosphere.
The magnetosphere is the magnet field that surrounds a planet and is produced from with the planet’s core. Here on Earth, we have a strong magnetosphere, and how it works is well understood (the sturring of multon metal in the outer core). The reason why Earth has such a nice atmosphere for life to survive is thanks to this, which reflects most of the solar winds.
However Mars’ magnetosphere is not as strong, organized, or understood. It is believed that Mars once did have a strong magnetic field like Earth, but it deteriorated, which makes us believe that is why the Red Planet lacks any substantial atmosphere. ESCAPADE will help learn more about Mars’ lacking magnetosphere, building a bigger picture of what happened to it or even how much currently exists today.
Neither NASA nor Blue Origin states when ESCAPADE will launch.
Big win for Blue Origin after years of shortfalls
Unvield back in 2016 and named after NASA’s first astronaut to reach orbit (John Glenn), New Glenn is a two-staged heavy-lift rocket that is, frankly, massive! Currently only supporting reuse on the first stage booster, Blue Origin started work on a internal program called “Project Jarvis” to make the second stage reusable.
Originally New Glenn was slated to launch no earlier than 2020, but that was pushed further back as development of the rocket suffered problems internally, and the company missed gaining large contracts from the Department of Defense. Right now, several telecomunicaton companies and startups have purchased flights on New Glenn, including OneWeb and Amazon’s Kuiper. However, Blue Origin has so far failed to get a government contract for the rocket at all.
That changed last year when NASA added New Glenn to the VADR program, giving Blue Origin the access to possible missions when available. There are several (much newer) companies also a part of the VADR program and have launched missions in the past. It is important to note that the faith put in these missions succeeding or happening any time soon is pretty low, Phantom Space even won a task order from them not too long ago. However, Blue Origin isn’t a company putting out fake renders of its rocket in NASA facilities, although they did put letters all around Congress trash-talking SpaceX, so I guess there should be a good amount of faith that New Glenn will be able to launch this mission to Mars. Maybe they can do it before SpaceX gets there!