SpaceX and its remarkable advancement in the space industry are well-known to all. Between their extraordinary presence as a private actor and their real achievements in recovering a first stage in real conditions, the “communication” machine is so well underway that it seems impossible to stop. SpaceX represents today a form of renewal in space, a way to believe in a new major adventure, reminiscent of the Sixties.
However, they are not alone in the race to orbit: more and more startups are emerging, aiming to bring new solutions, approaches, and methods. Most of them are not equipped to face the ruthless domain that is space: technical rigor, technological background, support from reliable industrial partners, highly specialized and competent human resources, reliable logistics… The skills and knowledge required generally pose a challenge difficult to overcome for anyone daring to venture into space.
This effusion, this race towards accessible private space, is associated with a general dynamic called NewSpace. We find a new major player capable of rivaling and perhaps surpassing today’s actors: Blue Origin, the company of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. And when the general public hears about it for the first time, it’s not for trivial matters:
At the end of 2015, a New Shepard rocket rose to 100.5km, surpassing the symbolic boundary of space, the Kármán line. Then, the first stage returned to the ground in a controlled flight, assisted by airbrakes and a deceleration burn, resulting in a smooth touchdown at a precise location. This achievement marked a milestone, outshining the repeated (but hardly comparable) attempts by SpaceX!
The tests continued, proving successful, and Blue Origin capitalized on this success by presenting a concept for a private launcher whose proportions could make any space agency blush: New Glenn.
Its purpose would naturally be orbit, with a payload in LEO reaching up to 45 tons, in the same vein as the expected 52 tons from the Falcon Heavy.
The similarities do not stop there, as of course, the first stage would be reusable, in one piece. Blue Origin has just unveiled a presentation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTEhohh6eYk
One will note the surprising imbalance between the quality of textures and… The extraordinary smoke effects!
Just a few days earlier, on March 7, 2017, the company signed its first contract with Eutelsat Communication for a launch planned in 2021… Needless to say, Blue Origin is a company to watch!