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Blue Origin shows off its mission control room

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture hasn’t yet completed its first New Glenn rocket, but it has completed a glittering control room in Florida for New Glenn’s missions to orbit.

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Blue Origin drops fresh hints about ‘busy year’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has lifted the curtain just a bit more on plans for its New Shepard suborbital spaceship and its orbital-class New Glenn rocket.

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GAO sides with Blue Origin in launch dispute

New Glenn
An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. (Blue Origin Illustration)

The Government Accountability Office is agreeing with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture that the Air Force needs to amend its rules for deciding who’ll get future contracts for national security space launches.

Today’s GAO decision comes in response to Blue Origin’s pre-award protest over the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, which was filed in August when Blue Origin and three other companies submitted their bids for future procurements.

The launches covered by the process would be executed between 2022 and 2026, and are sure to bring billions of dollars to the companies that are selected.

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Blue Origin spaceships inspire Lego toy designs

Blue Moon Lego lander
The Lego version of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander would include the ascent element for a crewed mission. (Lego Ideas Image / Valerie Roche / Matthew Nolan)New

Which will go into commercial service first: Blue Origin’s orbital-class New Glenn rocket and Blue Moon lunar lander, or the Lego toy versions?

The answer will depend not only on how much progress Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ space venture makes on the real things, but on how many people support the Lego Ideas project as well.

The 2,670-piece set would include a 1:110 scale version of the two-stage New Glenn and the human-capable variant of the Blue Moon lander, plus extras including a launch tower, rovers and a satellite. The rocket would be about 40 inches high.

The whole assemblage is designed by Valerie Roche and Matthew Nolan, the team behind the 1,969-piece Saturn V Lego rocket (which is also built to 1:110 scale), plus proposed SpaceX Falcon/Dragon and SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy rocket sets.

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Blue Origin protests launch contract rules

New Glenn rocket
An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s future New Glenn rocket, which is currently due to have its first flight in 2021. (Blue Origin Illustration)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture is protesting the rules of the game for awarding future national security launch contracts, while continuing to play against SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman.

All four companies have submitted bids in the second phase of an Air Force competition aimed at selecting vendors for launches in the 2022-2026 time frame.

In the first phase of the competition, the Air Force said it would set aside as much as $2.3 billion to support the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, ULA’s Vulcan rocket and Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket. All those rockets are scheduled to enter service in the 2021 time frame.

However, the Air Force said it would reduce the field to two companies next year. Moreover, SpaceX – which didn’t qualify for development funds in Phase 1 – is joining the field for Phase 2 with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, both of which are already flying.

In May, SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the federal government, complaining that it was unfairly left out of the Phase 1 awards and left at a disadvantage for Phase 2. Back then, the other three companies disputed SpaceX’s claims and supported the Air Force’s Phase 1 arrangement.

Today, it was Blue Origin’s turn to protest: The company said it filed a pre-award bid protest with the Government Accountability Office, claiming that it would be unfair for the Air Force to reduce the field to just two companies.

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Blue Origin breaks ground on Alabama factory

Blue Origin groundbreaking
United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno and Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith are front and center for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Blue Origin’s rocket engine factory in Huntsville, Ala. (City of Huntsville Photo via Twitter)

Civic leaders and space executives tossed shovels of dirt today to celebrate the groundbreaking for a $200 million rocket engine factory to be built in Alabama by Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.

“It’s a great day here in Rocket City, and it will be that way for years to come,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith declared during the ceremony at Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Ala.

Smith told the assembled crowd, “Blue Origin is all in on Alabama.”

The 200,000-square-foot facility is to open in March 2020 and manufacture BE-4 rocket engines for Blue Origin’s orbital-class New Glenn rocket as well as for United Launch Alliance’s next-generation, semi-reusable Vulcan rocket. ULA’s rocket production facility is located nearby in Decatur, Ala.

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Air Force backs three new kinds of rockets

Jeff Bezos and New Glenn
Jeff Bezos shows off the concept for the New Glenn orbital rocket during a Florida news conference in 2015. (Blue Origin Photo)

The U.S. Air Force says Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and United Launch Alliance have won its go-ahead for the development of new rockets that could be used for national security launches — a boost that could eventually add up to billions of dollars.

Blue Origin, the Kent, Wash.-based space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, was awarded a launch service agreement for its New Glenn rocket, which is due to be launched from Florida starting in 2021. The agreement provides for as much as $500 million through 2024, but Blue Origin is expected to contribute to a cost-sharing arrangement.

Through its recently acquired Orbital ATK subsidiary, Northrop Grumman won a $791.6 million agreement with similar terms for its OmegA launch system. ULA, meanwhile, won a $967 million agreement for its Vulcan Centaur rocket. The Vulcan is currently set for first launch in 2020, with two Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engines powering its first-stage booster. OmegA is to enter service in 2021.

Each of the companies will be getting $109 million in funds from fiscal year 2018.

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Blue Origin resets schedule for space milestones

Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith shows a video of a BE-4 rocket engine firing during the Aerospace Futures Alliance Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, is now planning to send its first crew on a suborbital space trip during the first half of 2019, and launch its first orbital-class New Glenn rocket in 2021.

That’s the word from Bob Smith, CEO of the Kent, Wash.-based company, who spoke here today at the Aerospace Futures Alliance Summit.

The schedule represents a slight shift to the right for Blue Origin’s development plan, which had been targeting this year for the first crewed flight of its New Shepard suborbital spaceship and 2020 for New Glenn’s first flight. That’s not totally unexpected, considering the challenges involved.

Even that schedule is ambitious. “We’ve got a lot of work on our hands,” Smith told the audience.

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Blue Origin plans rocket service center in Florida

New Glenn landing
An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket booster landing on a recovery ship. (Blue Origin Illustration via YouTube)

Blue Origin, the space venture created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has struck a deal with Florida’s spaceport authority to build a $60 million rocket testing and refurbishment facility near Cape Canaveral.

The facility would be constructed at Space Florida’s Exploration Park to provide support services for the $205 million, 750,000-square-foot New Glenn rocket manufacturing factory that Blue Origin already has built in Florida. Orbital-class New Glenn rockets are due to enter service by as early as 2020 and will be sent into space from Launch Complex 36, which is being leased from Space Florida.

Blue Origin is designing the New Glenn rocket to have a reusable first-stage booster, and the new facility would be where recovered boosters are refurbished and tested. The company’s plans were the subject of a Space Florida board meeting last month, and came to light this week in an Orlando Sentinel report.

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Blue Origin shows off upper-stage rocket engine

BE-3U rocket engine testing
Blue Origin’s BE-3U upper-stage rocket engine undergoes testing. (Blue Origin via Twitter)

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is sharing a short video clip featuring the lesser-known rocket engine for its orbital-class New Glenn rocket.

The spotlight on the hydrogen-fueled BE-3U engine comes amid reports that Blue Origin is rapidly ramping up its New Glenn development program — and amid questions over whether Blue Origin can start launching New Glenn by the end of 2020, as originally planned.

There’s also lots of activity relating to other aspects of Bezos’ aspirations.

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