Several videos from Blue Origin show progress in the design of its latest rocket, New Glenn, as the company ramps up for the first launch next year.
The Washington state-based company released footage in the past few days showing development on the BE-3U engines that will power the rocket's upper stage, construction of the payload fairing or "nose cone" that will hold satellites during launch and their new glass-walled mission control center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
BE-3U is a variant of the BE-3PM engine already flown on the suborbital New Shepard rocket, Blue Origin said in a YouTube video, but the new engine uses heat in a different way. The heat that drives the turbines in the engine is the same heat used in the main combustion cycle, so there is only one device to "light" or turn on to get the engine working.
Video: Manufacturing Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket engine
Related: Blue Origin's giant New Glenn rocket in pictures
A pair of the new engines will power the upper stage of New Glenn during its flights. Critical design review was completed last year, and now the company is working on hardware testing, officials added.
"[When] we get to the real fun, or "hot fire" that engine for the first time ... that's when we actually learn if we get our engine right," said Tim Hinerman, Blue Origin's senior director of program management in engines, in the video.
Another new video shows parts of the construction of New Glenn's payload fairing, which is the part of the rocket in which satellites and other payloads ride into space.
Video: First full-scale Blue Origin New Glenn rocket fairing
Viewers can see the rocket coming together in the company's manufacturing facility at Cape Canaveral, as well as hear from some of the senior managers overseeing the program.
"It is sized to fit almost 50% more than the next competitor," Jarrett Jones, the senior vice president of the New Glenn program, said in the video. The 22-foot (7 meters) fairing is in fact so large that the company could fit its current, smaller rocket — New Shepard — inside of it, he added.
"We have given customers a new opportunity to design satellites in a way they haven't before," Jones said.
In general, larger fairings allow for more complex satellites to be flown into space. Alternatively, the space could be used for multiple, smaller satellites (such as cubesats) that will be launched in the same orbit.
A third video offers an up-close look at the large tank for New Glenn's reusable first-stage booster. The first stage will be powered by a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid methane, and Blue Origin aims to reuse the New Glenn boosters up to 100 times each. The tanks are also being built at the company's manufacturing facility in Cape Canaveral.
Video: New Glenn rocket's large reusable tank - Production update
Parts of Blue Origin's new mission control center at the New Glenn rocket factory featured in a recent tweet, with viewers able to see the individual control stations (replete with several computer screens), white floors and glass-walled sides. Blue lamps under each desk and a sweeping, curved set of ceiling lights will illuminate the controllers as they work.
An inside look at our completed mission control in the #NewGlenn rocket factory. pic.twitter.com/65FAhPBbghMarch 11, 2020
The company is targeting civil, commercial and military customers for this rocket, which will be reusable (to lower launch costs) and is billed as being able to launch in 95% of weather conditions (to reduce the possibility of flight delays), according to the Blue Origin website. The rocket also comes in several configurations to allow larger payloads to fly to space, such as strap-on boosters that will increase thrust.
While New Glenn remains under development, Blue Origin's other rocket — New Shepard — has a nearly perfect streak so far across a dozen flights. The latest mission in December 2019 saw the rocket launch several commercial, research and education-focused satellites into space. New Glenn is currently scheduled to launch on its first flight in 2021.
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I may be confused about the verbiage here, but I don't believe New Shepard has launched any satellites into space, what with it being a suborbital rocket.