Amazon founder aims higher in space race
AMAZON founder Jeff Bezos has unveiled plans for a massive rocket designed to launch people to space and propel satellites into orbit, raising the ante in the commercial space industry.
Mr Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, said the rocket, called New Glenn, has been in the works for the past four years, and will be launched by decade's end.
At 82m high for the two-stage New Glenn and 95m tall for the three-stage version, the rocket will be taller than any on the market today, including SpaceX's Falcon 9.
Nasa is currently at work on a rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) that will be the tallest ever - at 117m - and aims to ferry people to an asteroid and, perhaps one day, even to Mars.
Mr Bezos said his company, Blue Origin, has learnt a lot from flying its New Shepard rocket, a 20m-tall suborbital vehicle designed to carry space tourists.
"Building, flying, landing, and re-flying New Shepard has taught us so much about how to design for practical, operable reusability," he said earlier this week.
The new rocket is "named in honour of John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth", he added.
It lifts off with 3.85 million pounds of thrust from seven BE-4 engines.
The booster portion is reusable, and could be returned to Earth after launching its payload to space and separating from the rocket's other components.
Both SpaceX and Blue Origin have successfully launched and returned the first stages of their rockets to upright landings on Earth, a key capability in the effort to make rockets as reusable as airplanes.
Blue Origin's entry into the commercial space flight and satellite launch market brings it more squarely in competition with SpaceX, headed by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk.
But SpaceX has suffered two rocket explosions since June last year. Mr Musk admitted on Friday that the blast has stumped investigators.