WASHINGTON – NASA has added New Glenn, the large launch vehicle developed by Blue Origin, to the list of vehicles eligible to compete for future agency missions.
NASA announced on December 16 that it had awarded a Blue Origin launch services contract, adding New Glenn to its NASA Launch Services (NLS) 2 contract vehicle as part of an annual “ramp” process. NASA is using the NLS 2 contract to purchase spacecraft launches.
The addition to NLS 2 does not guarantee the contract of a vehicle, but makes it eligible to compete for missions. Vehicles on NLS 2 include the Antares, Pegasus and Taurus missiles from Northrop Grumman, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy of SpaceX, as well as the Atlas 5 and Delta 4. of the United Union Launch Alliance. launchers with a proven flight record.
However, Blue Origin welcomed the news. “We are proud to be on NASA’s catalog of launch services and look forward to providing reliable launches for future NASA missions aboard New Glenn for years to come,” Jarrett Jones, senior vice president for New Glenn, said in a statement. .
Since announcing New Glenn in 2016, Blue Origin has secured several commercial customers, including Eutelsat, Mu Space, OneWeb, Sky Perfect JSAT and Telesat.
New Glenn was one of the competitors for the Phase 2 contract for the launch of the Pentagon’s National Security Space (NSSL). However, it lost to SpaceX’s Falcon vehicles and United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan missile in August. Vulcan uses BE-4 engines provided by Blue Origin, which also uses those engines in the first stage of New Glenn.
“We are continuing to develop New Glenn to meet our current commercial contracts, to pursue an expanded and growing commercial market, and to enter into new civilian launch contracts,” Bob Origin, Blue Origin’s chief executive, said in a statement. statement in August after losing the Phase 2 NSSL Competition dollars in the vehicle.
Blue Origin said a little more recently about the status of New Glenn’s development. One of the few visible signs of progress was the continued construction of the vehicle launch pad at Launch Complex 36 of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. and in February opened a plant in Huntsville, Alabama, to produce BE-4 and BE-3U engines.
The company initially aimed for a rocket debut in 2020, but by early 2019, it had dropped by 2021. A fact sheet distributed at the opening of its Huntsville engine plant said the vehicle’s first flight was scheduled for the end of 2021.
Blue Origin spokeswoman Sara Blask said on December 17 that the company has no new information to report on New Glenn’s progress or the estimated date of its first launch.