Blue Origin and NASA to launch Mars mission next year

NASA awarded Blue Origin, the private aerospace manufacturer founded by Jeff Bezos, the former CEO of Amazon, a task order to provide launch service on its New Glenn rocket. This is the first launch of the highly advanced and capable rocket, named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, as well as the company’s first big government contract.

The New Glenn is designed to provide reliable and cost-effective access to space for satellite launches, as well as human missions to low Earth orbit and beyond. It features a 7-meter diameter and is capable of launching up to 45 metric tons into space.

NASA announced last week, it has granted Blue Origin the contract for its Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission as part of the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract. “Blue Origin is one of 13 companies NASA selected for VADR contracts in 2022. As part of VADR, the fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts have a five-year ordering period with a maximum total value of $300 million across all contracts,” the U.S. space agency said.

“ESCAPADE follows a long tradition of NASA Mars science and exploration missions, and we’re thrilled NASA’s Launch Services Program has selected New Glenn to launch the instruments that will study Mars’s magnetosphere,” said Jarrett Jones, senior vice president for New Glenn at Blue Origin, in a company statement.

The launch is targeted for late 2024 and will take about 11 months to arrive at Mars after leaving Earth’s orbit, where according to NASA, “both spacecraft will spend several months adjusting their orbits before they are in position to best capture data about the magnetosphere. Studying different magnetospheres gives scientists a better understanding of space weather, which can protect astronauts and satellites both as they orbit Earth and explore the solar system.”