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Blue Origin says maiden flight of its New Glenn rocket for U.S. Air Force delayed to late 2022

Rendering of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, under development for the U.S. Air Force to carry national security payloads. (Blue Origin/TNS)

Blue Origin has postponed the maiden flight of its massive New Glenn rocket to the last quarter of 2022, after the company was snubbed for a lucrative contract with the Pentagon that went to rivals SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.

The rocket was set to make its debut later this year.

Blue Origin, the private rocket company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has so far spent $2.5 billion on developing New Glenn, including building a factory on Cape Canaveral and refurbishing the launch pad where New Glenn will one day lift off from.

Bezos has said he sells about $1 billion in Amazon shares each year to fund Blue Origin.

Losing out on the contract reportedly cost Blue Origin $3 billion in revenue, Jarrett Jones, the company’s senior vice president for New Glenn, told SpaceNews. “That was a big hit for us,” Jones said.

That contract — $316 million to SpaceX and $337 million to ULA (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin) — calls for the two companies to handle the military’s highest priority launches, delivering classified satellites into orbit for the Department of Defense from 2022 to 2027. Northrop Grumman was also passed over for the deal.

However, in December 2020, Blue Origin was among a group of companies selected to bid on future NASA missions, and its New Shepard suborbital spaceship for tourists has been undergoing uncrewed test flights.

Blue Origin has also designed a Blue Moon lunar lander that it hopes will be used for NASA’s Artemis program to take American astronauts back to the moon in 2024. That mission, the timeline for which was aggressively accelerated by the Trump administration, is also behind schedule and over budget.

Once it’s finished, New Glenn will be bigger than any of SpaceX or ULA’s rockets, standing at more than 300 feet tall and equipped with seven engines. Like Elon Musk’s Falcon 9, part of the rocket will be reusable, in some cases for up to 25 launches.


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