Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin won't launch its 1st New Glenn rocket until late 2022

An artist's illustration of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight.
An artist's illustration of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

We'll have to wait another year to see Blue Origin's giant orbital rocket get off the ground.

Blue Origin, which is run by founder Jeff Bezos, announced today (Feb. 25) that it's pushing the target date for the debut launch of its heavy-lift New Glenn rocket from late 2021 to the fourth quarter of 2022.

"This updated maiden flight target follows the recent Space Force decision to not select New Glenn for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement (LSP)," Blue Origin representatives wrote in an update today.

Related: NASA taps Blue Origin's New Glenn to launch future missions

Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman lost out to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance in that national-security launch decision, which the Space Force announced in August 2020.

New Glenn is a two-stage rocket that stands 322 feet tall (98 meters) and is named after NASA astronaut John Glenn, who in February 1962 became the first American to circle Earth. (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first person overall, pulling off the feat in April 1961.) 

The rocket will be capable of launching 50 tons (45 metric tons) to low Earth orbit when it's up and running, according to its specifications page. Bezos has said he hopes New Glenn will fly people as well as payloads.

Each New Glenn first stage will be capable of launching 25 missions, Blue Origins representatives say. Shortly after liftoff, the booster will come back to Earth and land on a ship at sea, as we've already seen the first stages of SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets do.

Such reuse is key to Blue Origin's overall vision, which involves helping humanity extend its footprint out into the final frontier. For example, the company's New Shepard rocket-capsule combo, which is designed to take people and payloads to suborbital space, is fully reusable. One New Shepard vehicle has flown seven uncrewed test flights, acing its landing each time. (New Shepard is not yet operational, but its first crewed spaceflights could happen soon.)

Blue Origin continues to make good progress on New Glenn and its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, company representatives wrote in today's update. The company has already scored New Glenn launch contracts with Eutelsat, Mu Space, OneWeb, Sky Perfect JSAT and Telesat, as Space News noted. And NASA recently made New Glenn eligible to compete for contracts under the agency's Launch Services II program, which applies to launches through December 2027.

"New Glenn is proceeding to fulfill its current commercial contracts, pursue a large and growing commercial market, and enter into new civil space launch contracts," Blue Origin representatives wrote in today's update. "We hope to launch NSSL payloads in the future, and remain committed to serving the U.S. national defense mission."

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.