Blue Origin making significant progress towards New Glenn milestones prior to inaugural flight

Blue Origin, the aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos, is making significant progress towards achieving major milestones with its New Glenn rocket. As 2023 comes to a close, there has been a noticeable increase in activity at Blue Origin’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral facilities, with sightings of various components of the New Glenn rocket.

One notable sighting was the capture of a New Glenn first-stage tank section outside Blue Origin’s main manufacturing facility at its Exploration Park campus. This tank section, known as the “First Stage Mid Module,” is the largest and most complete part of the New Glenn booster that has been publicly seen. It combines both the liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen tanks.

The captured tank section will soon be receiving its Aft Module, which will house seven BE-4 engines and six landing legs. The Forward Module, which serves as an interstage between the first and second stages and hosts four aerodynamic control fins, will also be integrated with the top of the booster.

Another sighting was a New Glenn payload fairing at Launch Complex 36. The fairing stood vertically at the launch pad for several days before being rolled back into the integration facility. While its exact purpose remains unclear, it is speculated that it may have been used to test the launch site’s payload air conditioning systems.

Blue Origin has been conducting tests with transporter erectors, which are used to support the New Glenn rocket during launch. These tests include a smaller transporter erector with two cutouts in the bottom to accommodate the twin BE-3U engines of New Glenn’s upper stage. This allows for static firing of the engines directly on the launch pad without the need for a dedicated test stand or external facility.

Inside the integration facility, two simulator stages for New Glenn are believed to be present. These structures are used to train teams in handling the 7-meter-diameter stages of New Glenn at both the production facility and Launch Complex 36. There is a possibility that a full-size New Glenn simulator will be stacked on the transporter erector and rolled out to the launch pad, providing practice for transportation and testing of the rocket.

Blue Origin is also expanding its presence at Port Canaveral, with the delivery of a large Liebherr mobile crane and a custom-made structure known as a jig. The crane will assist in recovery operations by lifting the first stage of New Glenn from the landing vessel onto the shore. The jig will support the first stages after offloading, allowing for inspection before transportation back to the factory or a future refurbishment facility.

In addition to its work on the New Glenn rocket, Blue Origin has announced a new spacecraft platform called Blue Ring. This in-space vehicle can carry multiple payloads and perform services such as refueling, multi-orbit transportation, and data relay. With Blue Ring, Blue Origin aims to tap into the growing market for in-space services, offering a larger platform compared to competitors like Rocket Lab and Launcher.

Overall, Blue Origin’s progress with the New Glenn rocket and its expansion into in-space services demonstrate its commitment to advancing space exploration and lowering the costs of accessing space. As 2024 approaches, it’s clear that Blue Origin is pushing to achieve significant milestones and make a mark in the aerospace industry.