Blue Origin announces New Glenn rocket, plans to see it fly by 2020

Blue Origin announced today that's it been hard at work at developing the successor to its New Shepard rocket, which saw its third and fourth launches earlier this year. Named after John Glenn, the first American to enter orbit around the Earth, Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket will come in two different variants and may be space bound by the end of the decade.

There are a lot of similarities between the two variants, with one New Glenn model offering two stages and the other offering three. Looking at a comparison image from Blue Origin, the scale of these rockets is impressive, with the 3-Stage New Glenn standing nearly as tall as NASA's massive Saturn V rocket, clocking in a 313 feet.

Both variants are 23 feet in diameter, and both utilize the same launcher, which uses seven BE-4 engines to generate 3.85 million pounds of thrust to achieve lift off. The second stage of the New Glenn takes advantage of one of these vacuum-optimized BE-4 engines, which burns liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen. New Glenn's third stage, on the other hand, uses a vacuum-optimized BE-3 engine, which burns liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen instead.

The main purpose of New Glenn will be to launch both commercial satellites and humans into space, with the 3-stage variant being capable of taking humans beyond low-Earth orbit. Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos says in the announcement that his company hopes to see these new rockets take their first flight by the time we close out the decade, and notes that New Glenn will incorporate everything the company has learned about reusability through its New Shepard launches.

As if revealing the New Glenn weren't enough, Bezos also announced that Blue Origin is working on developing its next rocket, naming it the New Armstrong. If that proves to be as interesting as the New Glenn rockets, then New Armstrong will definitely be one to watch. Stay tuned.