New Glenn Gets Larger Fairing

Blue Origin updated New Glenn’s design with a new, larger 7-meter fairing for the 2- and 3-stage variants. Previously, the 3-stage had a 7-meter fairing, but it was quite a bit shorter than the new one.

The 5-meter fairing on the 2-stage New Glenn never made much sense to me. It’s better to keep hardware common across the board for the benefits that brings to production. And, if you’ve got a 7-meter diameter, use it. But I hope that Blue Origin is considering fairing reusability as seriously as SpaceX is working on it. Those 7-meter fairings are huge, which means expensive materials, and even more expensive production.

Blue Origin is promoting the 7-meter upgrade by showing off its uses: higher-count LEO constellation dispensers, dual-manifesting two large satellites, and enough room for “simplified deployment mechanisms.”

Their line about dual-manifesting two large satellites is directly aimed at Arianespace. The Ariane 5 (and soon 6) can launch two satellites at once to GTO, but the systems to make that possible impose some size and mass constraints on each satellite. Presumably, with so much room to work with under the New Glenn fairing, these constraints are non-existent.

Their line about “simplified deployment mechanisms” is pretty obviously talking about missions like the James Webb Space Telescope. With bigger fairings, such intricate origami as is used to fold up the JWST is not needed. That makes New Glenn an interesting choice for future NASA missions—space telescopes, missions to the outer planets, and more—which require a lot of payload space.

Interestingly, fairing size was one of the two areas that SLS could claim without argument. And I say “was” because cargo SLS is just about as much a paper rocket as New Glenn. Not only will New Glenn fly before cargo SLS, but it may even fly before SLS at all, if things keep slipping they way they’ve been slipping.

While Blue Origin is taking mostly subtle shots at Arianespace and SLS, they’re going much more directly at Aerojet Rocketdyne with recent updates to their website. In the BE-4 section, Blue Origin talks definitively about how BE-4 will power ULA’s Vulcan in 2019, and they have a long diatribe about how BE-4 is the “Lowest Cost, Lowest Risk” choice to replace the use of the RD-180 engine. Blue Origin finally has something on the web to go up against Aerojet Rocket’s

With every step taken towards the launchpad, Blue Origin gets more confident, they open up, and they let the industry know just what’s coming its way.