Jeff Bezos shows off Blue Origin’s whopper rocket – and it is called New Glenn by the way

by | Sep 13, 2016 | commercial launch services, Launches, Seradata News, Technology | 0 comments

Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon and Blue Origin rocket entrepreneur, has released an image showing how his new LOx/Methane powered New Glenn rocket series stacks up in its two- and three- stage versions. And boy, are they big.

The rocket series is named in honour of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth. According to Blue Origin, the New Glenn rocket series is 23 feet in diameter and lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines in a reusable first stage. Burning liquefied natural gas (mainly methane) and liquid oxygen in the first and second stages, the 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall and its second stage is powered by a single vacuum-optimised BE-4 engine.

The 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall – nearly as high as the Apollo-era Saturn V. A single vacuum-optimised BE-3 engine, burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, powers its third stage. The booster and the second stage are identical in both variants.

Comment by David Todd: NASA has been stung by this announcement. With both Blue Origin and SpaceX building very large rockets, the raison d’etre of its SLS heavy lift launch vehicle is now open to question. At the AIAA Space 2016 conference, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was asked his opinion of SLS compared with commercial rockets, and he responded: “I’m not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles just yet.” This is not surprising considering that large commercial launch vehicles are likely to be very cost effective in both their development and operation.

The SLS rocket, impressive as it is, will only fly once per year, equating to a per launch cost of about US$1 billion, and that cost excludes the US$20 billion plus spent on building it. And to think the Space Shuttle operation was shut down partly over its extortionate per launch cost of US$500 million.

Worst of all, its planned close derivative, the Sidemount heavy lift launch vehicle, which had a performance close to the Block 1 SLS, would have been flying by now for one third the cost of SLS. Bolden eschewed this design in favour of the much more expensive SLS as it seemed to have better development potential. This seemed to be the best decision at the time as the alternative was to build Sidemount as an interim HLV before a much larger design was constructed. But now that Blue Origin’s New Glenn 3 rocket is expected to have a similar performance to the Block 1 SLS, and with SpaceX’s Mars rocket likely to dwarf even the later more powerful SLS Block 1B and Block 2 variants, it may well be that General Bolden made the wrong decision when he and NASA went for an inline SLS design.



About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

About Rob Coppinger

Rob Coppinger is a recovering powerpoint user and engineer who mistakenly thought journalism was more glamorous than production engineering. He Read more

T+1 as Hyperbola launches itself far, far above the blogosphere

All things spaceflight industry get linked too and commented on in Hyperbola, the new blog from Flight's technical reporter Rob Read more

On-orbit propellant fever!!

Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog from Flight technical reporter Rob Coppinger.

NASA gives public a new Dawn

Hyperbola is a technology orientated blog by flight technical reporter Rob Coppinger

While you’re waiting for that next Shuttle launch…

Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog by Flight's technical reporter Rob Coppinger

Romania in space

Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog by Flight technical reporter Rob Coppinger

Sputnik week’s first few news bites

Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog by Flight technical reporter Rob Coppinger

News bites once more in this historic Sputnik week

Hyperbola is a technology orientated spaceflight blog by Flight's technical reporter Rob Coppinger