Blue Origin intends to reach Mars in 2024 with two NASA spacecraft
Blue Origin is traveling to Mars from low Earth orbit.
Blue Origin was given a task order by NASA to launch the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission to Mars. In a statement published on Thursday (Feb. 9), the agency made the order public.
If the booster is ready on time, the pair of spacecraft, which will take Blue Origin beyond the suborbital realms where it currently flies, should launch in late 2024 aboard the company’s upcoming New Glenn rocket.
Rocket Lab-designed twin spacecraft will be used by ESCAPADE to investigate the Red Planet’s magnetosphere, or the atmosphere’s magnetic zone. The solar wind—charged particles from the sun—will be examined by two spacecraft orbiting Mars to examine how the atmosphere was significantly thinning as a result of the process.
As billions of years ago, it appears that Martian water flowed abundantly on the surface, mission outcomes may enable scientists to learn more about how the planet became so dry over time.
Blue Origin is one of a select group of potential applicants for the position. It was chosen by NASA from 13 companies on its 2022 Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) shortlist. NASA did not disclose the contract’s financial details on Thursday, but SpaceNews reported that it was worth $20 million based on government contracting records.
According to NASA’s documentation, VADR stands for “new opportunities for science and technology payloads and fostering a growing U.S. commercial launch market.” As part of VADR, NASA awarded Phantom Space Corp. four cubesat-class missions in 2022; On Phantom’s Daytona rocket, those launches are scheduled for 2024.
A smaller suborbital rocket known as New Shepard is used by Blue Origin to transport both people and their cargo. On September 12, 2022, the booster experienced an uncrewed anomaly during launch, which halted all launches. In the five months since the issue occurred, Blue has not provided any details about the investigation.
To reach orbital space and beyond, New Glenn will be available in two variants—a two-stage and a three-stage—when it is ready. It is anticipated to reach a height of 313 feet (95 meters), which is five times greater than New Shepard’s 59 feet (18 meters).