NASA chooses Blue Origin’s New Glenn for a science mission to Mars

NASA has Blue Origin’s new Glenn selected, the company’s heavy-lift orbiter has yet to make its first launch, for a science mission to Mars. EQUAL Reuters Note, this is also the company’s first interplanetary NASA contract. The mission is called Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers or ESCAPADE, and it is designed to study the planet’s magnetosphere using twin spacecraft. NASA is aiming to launch the mission by the end of 2024, which means we won’t have to wait too long to finally see New Glenn in action – if the space company owned by Jeff Bezos can prevent further development delays, it is.

The New Glenn vehicle is the company’s answer to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and the company’s other heavy-lift vehicles. Blue Origin originally targeted a 2020 launch — and NASA approved it for future unmanned science and exploration missions that year — but the event was repeatedly pushed back. It was moved to 2021 and then to 2022. At the end of March last year, Jarrett Jones, SVP of Blue Origin for New Glenn, admit that the car won’t fly for the first time in 2022 and the company is in the process of setting a new date.

NASA has granted Blue Origin a contract for ESCAPADE under a Venture Class Exclusive Acquisition and Projection Agreement (VADR), designed to accelerate the growth of commercial launch services in the United States. The agency intends to use launch vehicles from program participants specifically for “class D payloads and small satellites” that can withstand a higher risk. In other words, VADR contracts are for lower-cost tasks. “By using a lower level of mission assurance and commercial best practices for rocket launches, these highly flexible contracts help expand space access through cost lower launch,” NASA said in its announcement of the selection of New Glenn.

The ESCAPADE mission will launch from Space Launch Complex-36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It will take about 11 months for the mission to reach the red planet. After that, it will take a few more months for the twin spacecraft to reach the ideal orbit to gather information about Mars’ magnetosphere. The data it provides can help scientists better understand space weather, so that safeguards can be put in place to better protect astronauts and satellites as we continue to orbit. continue to explore outer space.

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