A “pathfinder” version of the New Glenn rocket in the company’s manufacturing facility.
Jeff Bezos’ space venture Blue Origin delayed the first launch of its New Glenn rocket by a year, citing the loss of key Pentagon launch contracts to competitors SpaceX and ULA as the catalyst for the shift in schedule.
Blue Origin is targeting the fourth quarter of 2022 for New Glenn’s inaugural launch, having previously set late-2021 as the date. The company said the “updated maiden flight target follows the recent Space Force decision to not select New Glenn” for the latest round of national security launch contracts.
The Department of Defense in August awarded SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, the latter being the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, with billions worth of contracts for launches over five years. The Pentagon selected SpaceX and ULA over bids from Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.
“We hope to launch NSSL payloads in the future, and remain committed to serving the U.S. national defense mission,” Blue Origin said in a news release Thursday.
An artist’s illustration of a New Glenn rocket standing on the launchpad in Florida.
New Glenn is the next-generation rocket that Blue Origin has been developing, with a rocket booster that is designed to land and be reused in a similar way to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Blue Origin expects each New Glenn rocket will be capable of launching and landing 25 times.
The rocket would be larger than any other vehicle flying currently, and the company says it has invested $2.5 billion in New Glenn’s development. New Glenn stands about 320 feet tall and is designed to lift about 45,000 kilograms of payload to low Earth Orbit.
An aerial view of the company’s manufacturing and testing facility in Florida.
Blue Origin has built a mockup of the booster stage of New Glenn to run tests ahead of the first launch from Florida.
The company has invested heavily in manufacturing and testing facilities at Cape Canaveral, with about 1 million square feet of real estate. The company noted that, of the $2.5 billion invested in New Glenn, about $1 billion was spent to rebuild the LC-36 launchpad.
Blue Origin’s work at LC-36 includes building a tower that can support launching people on New Glenn, which the company hopes to do later.
Bezos personally funds Blue Origin’s development by selling part of his Amazon stock. While he has said that he sells about $1 billion of Amazon shares annually to fund the space company, Bezos has recently increased his sales of Amazon stock, cashing out more than $10 billion worth in 2020.
Half of a rocket nosecone, also known as a fairing half, for New Glenn.
Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.