Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin published an updated timeline for the first flight of New Glenn, the orbital rocket it’s building to complement its existing New Shepard suborbital space launch vehicle. The company is now targeting Q4 2022 – a slippage of roughly a year from the prior stated timeline of sometime towards the end of 2021. The main cause, per Blue Origin? Space Force passing on using New Glenn to launch national security payloads during a recent contract bid process.
Blue Origin said in a blog post that the “schedule has been refined to match the demand of Blue Origin’s commercial customers,” and specifically says it “follows the recent Space Force decision to not select New Glenn for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Services Procurement (LSP).” Those awards were announced last August, and the two winners were the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX, who prevailed over Blue Origin, and also Northrop Grumman. The launch service contracts that make up the awards begin in 2022, so it makes sense why Blue Origin had been pushing for a first launch of New Glenn by the end of this year in order to meet the needs of Space Force.
While it may not be under the same time pressure without access to those contracts, it’s still making “major progress” towards New Glenn and the facilities at Cape Canaveral in Florida from which it’ll launch, according to the company. Blue Origin shared tweets showing off some of its progress, including work on the New Glenn rocket factory, testing facility and Launch Complex 36. It also said it’s put more than $2.5 billion into the facilities and infrastructure that will support its eventual launches.
Check out the recent progress at our #NewGlenn rocket factory at Cape Canaveral. We are testing flight operations with the giant stage 1 simulator, producing flight hardware, and growing the integration and test facilities around the campus. pic.twitter.com/egH29IpQ7O
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) February 25, 2021