Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Now In The Race To Mars Against Elon Musk's SpaceX
Over the last 15 years, two of the world's most high-profile CEOs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, have been engaged in a simmering rivalry. The two execs have sparred over their respective space ambitions, and now, a new topic just fueled the fire. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, has been awarded its first interplanetary NASA contract on Thursday to launch a mission next year to study the magnetic field around Mars. According to a report by Forbes, Blue Origin has recently developed a New Glenn heavy-lift rocket to blast off with NASA's dual-spacecraft ESCAPADE mission in late 2024 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, NASA announced on Thursday.
Previously, SpaceX owner, Elon Musk has always been open about his desires regarding taking humans to the red planet. The billionaire is continuously working towards the goal by building the Starship spacecraft. Unfortunately for the Twitter CEO, another billionaire has stepped into the game.
🛰 A mission to Mars in now part of NASA’s VADR contract!@BlueOrigin will launch ESCAPADE, the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, in late 2024. 🚀— NASA's Launch Services Program (@NASA_LSP) February 10, 2023
ESCAPADE will use two identical small spacecraft to study the Martian magnetosphere! https://t.co/v11IpMVWHK pic.twitter.com/xiukkQORo1
Blue Origin's interplanetary award is part of NASA’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract, which involves 13 companies. The mission is not allowed to break a ceiling of $300 million. Part of an effort by NASA not to over-rely on SpaceX rockets and help encourage competition in the private spaceflight sector. NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), therefore, awarded Blue Origin the launch contract for the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission.
The mission will fly on New Glenn, Blue Origin’s yet-to-be-tested heavy-lift vehicle that is designed to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The mission is scheduled to go in late 2024 from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
We’re honored to have been selected by @NASA_LSP to launch the ESCAPADE science mission on #NewGlenn. With ESCAPADE, NASA will study Mars’ magnetosphere. Learn more: https://t.co/gckKVDLLkB pic.twitter.com/fQYHcO1uQ3— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) February 9, 2023
New Glenn, with a reusable first stage designed to be flown on at least 25 missions, is named for pioneering NASA astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962. Blue Origin has flown previous Nasa missions with its smaller, suborbital New Shepard rocket, which can carry research payloads on short, microgravity trips to the edge of space and back, per Metro. New Glenn is powered by its BE-4 engines—each using liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas engine—which will fly for the first time this year on United Launch Alliance (ULA)’s Vulcan Centaur heavy-lift launch vehicle. It’s possible that New Glenn could get an orbital flight test later this year.
“ESCAPADE follows a long tradition of NASA Mars science and exploration missions, and we’re thrilled NASA’s Launch Services Program has selected New Glenn to launch the instruments that will study Mars’ magnetosphere,” said Jarrett Jones, senior vice president of New Glenn, Blue Origin.
According to Unilad, the mission is intended to study Mars’ magnetosphere, otherwise known as the magnetized area of space around the planet. Using two identical small spacecrafts, NASA will record simultaneous two-point observations to gain a better understanding of how the magnetosphere on Mars interacts with the solar wind, and how energy and plasma enter and leave the magnetosphere. All of this will in turn offer scientists a better understanding of weather in space; this information will also help protect both astronauts and satellites as they orbit Earth and explore the solar system.