Accessibility links

New Rockets Announced in Private Space Race


Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility before the rocket’s maiden voyage. (Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, inspects New Shepard’s West Texas launch facility before the rocket’s maiden voyage. (Blue Origin)

Businessman Jeff Bezos has announced two new rocket designs to launch satellites and people into space.

Most people know Bezos as the founder and chief executive officer of online seller Amazon. However, the rocket designs come from his private space company, Blue Origin.

The two reusable rockets are called New Glenn. The name refers to astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, in 1962.

The New Glenn two-stage rocket stands 82 meters high and is designed to reach low-Earth orbit. A three-stage version, measuring 95 meters, is meant to travel beyond Earth’s orbit.

Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin has announced two new rocket designs to launch satellites and people into space. (Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin has announced two new rocket designs to launch satellites and people into space. (Blue Origin)

The first stage of both rockets will be powered by seven engines, using liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen as fuel. The new designs are based on Blue Origin’s smaller New Shepard rocket, which has successfully launched four times.

Bezos said the new rockets should be ready for flight “before the end of this decade.” They will take off from the historic Launch Complex 36 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“Our vision is millions of people living and working in space, and New Glenn is a very important step,” Bezos said in an email announcing his plans.

Blue Origin's New Shepard booster makes another successful launch and landing from the company's West Texas launch facility. (Blue Origin)

Blue Origin's New Shepard booster makes another successful launch and landing from the company's West Texas launch facility. (Blue Origin)

Bezos has said Blue Origin plans to launch satellites into orbit for companies at a lower cost. It also plans to transport tourists into space. The company’s business model depends on the ability to reuse parts of the rockets over and over again.

Other private space companies are based on the same model. One of Blue Origin’s main competitors is SpaceX, owned by businessman and investor Elon Musk. Musk also operates electric car company Tesla Motors.

So far, SpaceX has successfully launched and landed rockets six times. Two of the rockets landed on the ground and four touched down on a platform floating in the sea.

SpaceX recently planned another launch. But its Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a pre-launch test two days before liftoff on September 1. The cause of the explosion is being investigated.

Screen grab of the SpaceX rocket explosion on September 1, 2016.

Screen grab of the SpaceX rocket explosion on September 1, 2016.

The accident at Cape Canaveral destroyed the rocket and a communications satellite that was built for Facebook. The social media network planned to use the satellite to provide high-speed internet service to parts of Africa.

Bezos noted that Blue Origin places high importance on not moving too quickly with development.

“We believe slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” he said. “In the long run, deliberate and methodical wins the day, and you do things quickest by never skipping steps.”

Bezos said the company would not stop at New Glenn and hinted at plans for an even bigger rocket. “Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong,” he said. “But that's a story for the future.”

That rocket would be named after astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, in 1969.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English based on reports from Reuters and the Associated Press. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

deliberate – adj. done intentionally or planned

methodical adj. done with care, in an organized way

hint – v. to say or give information about something in an indirect way

Show comments

XS
SM
MD
LG