NASA to Launch Mars Mission on Blue Origin’s New Glenn • TechCrunch

NASA to Launch Mars Mission on Blue Origin’s New Glenn • TechCrunch

NASA to Launch Mars Mission on Blue Origin's New Glenn • TechCrunch

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NASA is planning a science mission to Mars that will board a New Glenn — Blue Origin’s first big government contract for the yet-to-be-tested launch vehicle.


New Glenn is the much, much bigger sibling to the New Shepard suborbital rocket in which so many celebrities and wealthy have gone to the edge of space. Announced in 2016, the launcher would compete with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and other heavy-lift options. . But 6 years later, we still haven’t seen a New Glenn in one piece, let alone ready to launch a mission to Mars.

The first flight to New Glenn was scheduled for late 2021, but that date was “refined” earlier that year, allegedly because a contract with the Pentagon fell through. The fourth quarter of 2022 was the next window, but obviously it has come and gone. I requested an updated calendar.

The launch contract goes through NASA’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) program, which early last year awarded up to $300 million to be split among 13 companies for launch services. of various types. Anyone who’s anyone is on the roster there, essentially providing a low-cost option for non-critical missions.

“These small Class D satellites and payloads tolerate relatively high risk and provide an ideal platform for technical and architectural innovation,” NASA wrote at the time of the award. In other words, we’d certainly rather they didn’t explode, but at this arguing price?

The lucky mission to secure a spot on a New Glenn is Escapade, a twin-ship Martian magnetosphere study that, oddly enough, is being designed and built by launch rival Rocket Lab. (They don’t really overlap yet, actually, but they are theoretically concurrent.)

The theoretical launch date is in 2024, but these tend to slip, especially when the rocket they’re supposed to ride on is still a little theoretical.

Rocket Lab isn’t crazy, though. “The size of the spacecraft and the mission requirements of GETAWAY meant the mission could not be launched on Electron,” the company told TechCrunch.

And for a reminder on the mission: “The photon pair will perform an 11-month interplanetary cruise before entering elliptical orbits around Mars to understand the structure, composition, variability and dynamics of the unique hybrid magnetosphere. of Mars – which will also support crewed exploration programs like Artemis through better forecasting of solar storms.

New Glenn may not be flying yet, but it’s getting a lot of interest, especially from Blue Origin’s friends at Kuiper, Amazon’s communications satellite constellation company. They ordered 12 last year, which should keep Blue’s new facility in Huntsville running for the foreseeable future.


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