NASA has awarded a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to Blue Origin for New Glenn launch services in accordance with the contract’s on-ramp provision.
The New Glenn launch service will be available to NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) to use for future missions in accordance with the on-ramp provision of NLS II.
The NLS II is a multiple-supplier, multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle with an ordering period through June 2025 and an overall period of performance through December 2027. Each supplier that is a part of NLS II has its own individual contract with LSP. The NLS II on-ramp provision provides an opportunity annually for new launch service providers to be added as a potential supplier and to compete for future NASA missions. The on-ramp provision also allows existing NLS II launch service providers to introduce launch vehicles not currently on its NLS II contract.
NLS II contractors must have the ability to successfully launch and deliver a payload to orbit using a domestic launch service capable of placing, at minimum, a 250 kg (551 lb.) payload into a 200 km (124 mile) circular orbit at an inclination of 28.5 degrees.
The NLS II contracts support the goals and objectives of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and the Space Technology Mission Directorate. Under the contract, NASA can also provide launch services to other government agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Blue Origin New Glenn
New Glenn, named after pioneering astronaut John Glenn, is a single configuration heavy-lift launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to Earth orbit and beyond.
The rocket features a reusable first stage built for 25 missions. With seven reusable and throttleable BE-4 liquid oxygen / liquefied natural gas (LOx/LNG) engines, the first stage generates 17,100 kN (3.85 million lbf) thrust at sea level. BE-4 is the world’s most powerful LOx/LNG engine and seven of them will enable New Glenn to launch payloads over 13 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and 45 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO).
The second stage is powered by two re-ignitable BE-3U engines delivering 1,100 kN (240,000 lbf) of thrust. The hydrogen upper stage is designed for demanding, highly energetic missions to LEO, MEO, GEO and beyond.
The rocket is equipped with four forward fins that are actuated aerodynamic control surfaces used for attitude adjustment during descent and landing of the first stage. Two wing-like strakes provide lift and cross-range for the reusable first stage as it flies back to Earth. The aft module houses six hydraulically actuated legs that support and secure the first stage during landing on a moving ship.
New Glenn’s 7-meter fairing has two times the payload volume of any existing 5-meter class commercial launch system, which means more room for satellites and the freedom to build in more capacity. New Glenn is able to launch and land in 95% of weather conditions, making it a reliable option for payload customers. The launch vehicle is expected to commence operations in 2021.
Blue Origin has built a 180,000 m2 (650,000 ft2) complex to manufacture, integrate and operate New Glenn on Florida’s Space Coast. Rocket stages, payload fairings and adapters will be built and integrated in Florida only 9 miles from the launch pad, Launch Complex 36 (LC-36) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The complex is home to Blue Origin’s launch and mission control centers and also houses New Glenn’s payload integration and first stage refurbishment centers.
For launches to high-inclination polar orbits, Blue Origin is pursuing a West Coast launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.