Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture hasn’t yet finished its orbital-class New Glenn rocket, but today NASA put it on the “on-ramp” for future missions.
The NASA Launch Services II contract, or NLS II for short, essentially puts New Glenn on the list of options available for ordering through June 2025, with an overall period of performance through 2027. As described in a NASA news release, NLS II is a contracting vehicle that can cover multiple suppliers and multiple awards on the basis of indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity.
NLS II contractors must be able to use a domestic launch service to deliver payloads weighing a minimum of 551 pounds (250 kilograms) to a 124-mile (200-kilometer) orbit at an inclination of 28.5 degrees, which matches Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s coordinates.
Such contractors include United Launch Alliance for the Atlas 5 rocket, SpaceX for the Falcon 9, and Northrop Grumman for the Antares.
The suppliers on the NLS II list can compete for NASA’s launch contracts, but each launch is covered by its own contract. An “on-ramp provision” provides an annual opportunity to add new launch service providers to NASA’s catalog, and to add new launch vehicles that will be fielded by the NLS II program’s existing providers.
New Glenn is being developed at Blue Origin’s sprawling rocket factory in Florida, with the first launch currently set for 2021. Blue Origin has signed up several satellite operators — including Eutelsat, OneWeb and Japan’s Sky Perfect JSAT — for early launches.
Now that the New Glenn rocket is on the NLS II list, project managers at NASA centers around the country can design their spacecraft to fit the heavy-lift rocket’s specifications, including its 23-foot-wide (7-meter-wide) fairing.
“We are proud to be in NASA’s launch services catalog and look forward to providing reliable launches for future NASA missions aboard New Glenn for years to come,” Jarrett Jones, Blue Origin’s senior vice president for the New Glenn program, said in a news release. “The award builds on Blue Origin’s existing partnership with NASA and will advance science and exploration to benefit Earth.”
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News – NASA adds Blue Origin’s upcoming New Glenn rocket to its launch services catalog