NASA is planning a science mission to Mars that may experience up aboard a New Glenn — Blue Origin’s first huge authorities contract for the as-yet-untested launch automobile.
New Glenn is the a lot, a lot bigger sibling of the suborbital New Shepard rocket that so many celebrities and wealthy people have gone to the sting of area in. Introduced in 2016, the launch automobile would compete with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and different heavy-lift choices. However 6 years later, we’ve but to see a New Glenn in a single piece, not to mention able to launch a Mars mission.
The primary flight for New Glenn was scheduled for late 2021, however that date was “refined” earlier that yr, purportedly as a result of a contract with the Pentagon had fallen via. This fall of 2022 was the following window, however clearly that’s come and gone. I’ve requested for up to date timing.
The launch contract is thru the Enterprise-Class Acquisition of Devoted and Rideshare (VADR) program at NASA, which early final yr assigned a most of $300 million to be cut up amongst 13 firms for launch companies of assorted varieties. Everybody who’s anybody is on the checklist there, basically offering a low-cost possibility for noncritical missions.
“These small satellites and Class D payloads tolerate comparatively excessive threat and function a really perfect platform for technical and structure innovation,” wrote NASA on the time of the award. In different phrases, we’d actually relatively they didn’t blow up, however at this worth who’s arguing?
The fortunate mission to be awarded a spot on a New Glenn is Escapade, a dual-craft Martian magnetosphere examine that, funnily sufficient, is being designed and constructed by launch rival Rocket Lab. (They don’t actually overlap but, in truth, however they’re nominally rivals.)
The notional launch date is in 2024, however these have a tendency to slide, particularly when the rocket they’re alleged to go up on remains to be sort of theoretical.
Rocket Lab isn’t mad, although. “The dimensions of the spacecraft and ESCAPADE’s mission necessities meant the mission is unsuitable for launch on Electron,” the corporate instructed TechCrunch.
And for a refresher on the mission: “The pair of Photons will conduct an 11-month interplanetary cruise earlier than inserting themselves into elliptical orbits round Mars to grasp the construction, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars’ distinctive hybrid magnetosphere – which will even help crewed exploration applications like Artemis via improved photo voltaic storm prediction.”
New Glenn is probably not flying but, however it does have loads of curiosity, most prominently from Blue Origin’s mates at Kuiper, Amazon’s communication satellite tv for pc constellation firm. They ordered 12 final yr, which ought to maintain Blue’s new Huntsville facility working for the foreseeable future.