Blue Origin, the company that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos founded with the goal of commercializing human space travel, revealed the plans for its latest rocket Monday.
The rocket, called New Glenn (named in honor of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth) is designed to launch commercial satellites and to fly humans into space. Blue Origin intends to fly New Glenn for the first time before the end of the decade, Bezos wrote in an email. He shared an illustration of the rocket via Twitter:
With an orbital rocket, Bezos would take his company up a notch in the space race. Elon Musk's SpaceX has already made orbital flights, but the recent explosion of a SpaceX rocket carrying a satellite for Facebook's Internet.org was a stark reminder of the risks of the business. Meanwhile, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic last week completed its first successful test flight since 2014.
In his email Monday, Bezos shared that the New Glenn is 23 feet in diameter and lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines. The engines, burning liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen, are the same as those that will power United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket. The 2-stage New Glenn is 270 feet tall, and the 3-stage New Glenn is 313 feet tall.
"The 3-stage variant - with its high specific impulse hydrogen upper stage - is capable of flying demanding beyond-LEO missions," he said.
"Our vision is millions of people living and working in space, and New Glenn is a very important step. It won't be the last of course," Bezos continued. "Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong. But that's a story for the future."