Jeff Bezos's space company Blue Origin wants to build some of the world's most powerful rockets.
On Monday morning, in an email to the press, company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos revealed details about the New Glenn rocket--the company's most ambitious one yet. Named for American astronaut John Glenn, the New Glenn will travel to orbital space, meaning it would go high and fast enough to make a full revolution around the earth.
Until now, Blue Origin's rockets had been designed to go into suborbital space, which entails flying more than 62 miles above the earth's surface, but not high enough to make a full revolution. Traveling to orbital space means the rocket will have the ability to launch satellites, or to take tourists and scientists into orbit.
It's a feat that requires significant power. Science website Ars Technica reports that the New Glenn will produce 3.85 million pounds of thrust at launch--far more than the most powerful rocket currently in operation, United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy, which has a launch thrust of about 2.1 million pounds.
SpaceX, meanwhile, is planning on launching a rocket, the Falcon Heavy, in 2017 that has a thrust of more than 5 million pounds. Like Elon Musk's company, Blue Origin is engineering its rockets to safely land back on earth so they can be reused, thus shaving tens of millions of dollars off the cost of each launch. SpaceX is the only company to successfully launch and land a rocket capable of orbital flight. The New Glenn would be Blue Origin's first attempt to create a rocket capable of that feat and compete with SpaceX in getting payloads to orbital space.
Blue Origin's massive rocket is 23 feet in diameter. The three-stage version comes in at at a towering 313 feet.
Bezos said he plans to fly the rocket by the end of this decade. The company is currently building the facilities at Florida's Cape Canaveral, where eventually the rocket will be manufactured.
And this is just the beginning. In April, Bezos told Ars Technica that Blue Origin's first orbital vehicle would not be its last--and that it would be the smallest orbital vehicle the company ever builds.
And while the New Glenn is named for the first astronaut to orbit the earth, Bezos teased a future endeavor named for an astronaut with another distinction. "New Glenn is a very important step," he wrote, according to Ars Technica. "It won't be the last of course. Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong. But that's a story for the future."