Blue Origin Claims to Have 'More Reliable' Rocket Launches Than Its Competitor SpaceX

Monday, 30 April 2018 - 6:52PM
Space
Technology
SpaceX
Monday, 30 April 2018 - 6:52PM
Blue Origin Claims to Have 'More Reliable' Rocket Launches Than Its Competitor SpaceX
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YouTube/Blue Origin
It might not be the biggest name in rocket launches right now, but things are going well for Blue Origin, the private aerospace company started by the extremely wealthy Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

This past weekend, Blue Origin ran another successful test launch of their New Shepard rocket and capsule, which will eventually be used for transporting wealthy tourists (and maybe some professional astronauts) up into space on short, suborbital trips. But it's not their most advanced rocket, which would perhaps be their reusable New Glenn model. 

Unlike New Shepard, the New Glenn rocket can transport payloads and (potentially) manned spacecraft into orbit, giving it a number of more practical uses in spaceflight such as the contract launches for the U.S. military which Blue Origin is pursuing. And the company believes New Glenn has a leg up on competitors, not naming SpaceX specifically but clearly referencing previous Falcon 9 rocket launches from the company. 

During the hour-long livestream of the launch - available here if you'd like to see it - the host and Blue Origin higher-up Ariane Cornell went into detail about how a New Glenn launch would go, specifically mentioning that since the rocket can be recycled, Blue Origin will have a floating drone ship in the ocean ready to catch the rocket.

But while SpaceX has a stationary barge in place to catch stages, boosters, etc. from a falling rocket, Blue Origin has a much more mobile ship which can handle itself in even troubled waters. In the event of an emergency, this would make Blue Origin more likely to catch their precious rocket as it falls.



Here's Cornell's full comment, as transcribed by CNET. Again, she doesn't mention them by name, but she points to their barge and says Blue Origin will have a "more reliable schedule" than some mysterious competitor:

Opening quote
"It's actually more stable than a barge out there, which means that we can actually launch and land in higher sea states. It means we can have a more reliable schedule for our customers." 
Closing quote


While it's easy to dismiss this as just big talk - and Elon Musk has managed to get SpaceX into several spats with other spaceflight companies like Boeing - there have been some issues with SpaceX catching rocket pieces lately.

A recent attempt to catch a falling Falcon 9 nose cone ended in failure after their stationary barge, named Mr. Stevens, wasn't positioned in exactly the right spot. The absurdly expensive nose cone sank into the ocean, with Mr. Stevens and its large attached net returning to shore empty handed. 

And even beyond that, sometimes SpaceX has been forced to cancel launches due to rough waters, which theoretically wouldn't be a problem for Blue Origin. But of course, they still have to show that they can do this at some point.

Blue Origin's goal is to carry tourists into space by next year on New Shepard rockets, so we may not immediately see a New Glenn launch for some time.
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