Yesterday Blue Origin showed off the BE-4 engine for its “New Glenn” rocket, and today CEO Jeff Bezos revealed its launch customer and an animation showing how it’ll fly. Its new ship is capable of putting a 50-ton payload into a low-Earth orbit or 14 tons in a geosynchronous orbit and then landing the first stage on a moving barge (video, below). That’s nearly identical, of course, to what the SpaceX Falcon 9 can do. Blue Horizon has also landed the New Shepherd’s first stage multiple times (on land), but it’s not an orbital-capable rocket like the Falcon 9.
At the Satellite 2017 event in Washington DC, Jeff Bezos also revealed that the New Glenn’s launch customer with be Eutelsat, a France-based TV, corporate network and mobile communications provider. Blue Origin will launch geostationary satellite for the company sometime in the 2021-2022 timeframe, Eutelsat said in a press release.
Bezos said that the company’s overall goal is to reduce launch costs via reusability, much like SpaceX. However, the New Glenn probably won’t launch until sometime in 2020. Bezos also plans to launch the “Blue Moon” lander to take cargo to the moon, possibly on top of New Glenn.
The take-off, flight and landing sequences shown in the animation do bear a lot of resemblance to what SpaceX does, especially the part about landing on a barge. However, it’s worth noting that Blue Origin was actually the first rocket company to land a reusable rocket, albeit a much smaller one, with the New Shepherd. There are also some significant differences between the vehicles, most notably the aerodynamic control surfaces used to help guide New Glenn’s first-stage in for a landing.