Video Blue Origin, the orbital delivery service funded by Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos, has taken its first satellite launch booking. We're told the sat will be put into orbit in 2021 or 2022 – basically, once Bezos has finished building the rocket to do the job.
If all goes to plan, Blue Origin will launch a communications satellite from European partner Eutelsat using its New Glenn rocket, a two- or three-stage machine that has yet to be constructed or tested. The rocket, named after the late astronaut John Glenn, is due to undergo its first test flight in three years' time.
"Eutelsat is one of the world's most experienced and innovative satellite operators, and we are honored that they chose Blue Origin and our New Glenn orbital launch vehicle," said Bezos said in a statement.
"Eutelsat has launched satellites on many new vehicles and shares both our methodical approach to engineering and our passion for driving down the cost of access to space. Welcome to the launch manifest, Eutelsat, can't wait to fly together."
Blue Origin presumably can't wait, but it may have to. If the last 90 years of rocketry development has taught us anything it's that getting such complex beasts to work reliably is a major undertaking, fraught with peril.
The announcement of the Eutelsat has been coupled with a flashy video from Blue Origin showing how it would like the launch and delivery to go. It shows a two-stage rocket liftoff with the main rocket returning to the surface and landing on a barge emblazoned with the Blue Origin motto Gradatim Ferociter (Step by step, ferociously).
That latter image looks like a not-so-subtle dig at rival Elon Musk. The SpaceX founder has named his landing barges Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You. Both are named after ships in the late great Iain M Banks Culture science fiction series, and Elon's musketeers don't bother with things like corporate slogans.
As SpaceX has shown new rocketry is hard and landing on a floating barge is doubly so. Getting the New Glenn up and the satellite into the desired orbit will be tricky and Eutelsat is taking a big leap of faith.
"Blue Origin has been forthcoming with Eutelsat on its strategy and convinced us they have the right mindset to compete in the launch service industry," said Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer. "In including New Glenn in our manifest we are pursuing our longstanding strategy of innovation that drives down the cost of access to space and drives up performance. This can only be good news for the profitability and sustainability of our industry."
The other side of that is that Eutelsat is already using SpaceX as a customer but would like to pay less per launch. If Blue Origin can bring in some competition to the orbital delivery market then Eutelsat can reap the benefits. ®