Jeff Bezos is increasing the staff of his rocket company Blue Origin to 3000 people over the next two or three years. Blue Origin currently has 1500 people. SpaceX has 6000 people. Blue Origin has not yet reached orbit with any rocket and is developing the New Glenn reusable heavy launch rocket.
New Glenn’s first-stage booster will be reusable like the SpaceX Falcon 9. Blue Origin has said there will be test flights starting within two years.
Blue Origin is finalizing details on New Glenn’s design and are building model components that must be put through extreme testing.
French satellite firm Eutelsat SA is the first New Glenn customer.
Around 800 small satellites are expected to launch annually beginning around 2020. This will be more than double the annual average over the past decade.
Blue Origin needs to get launching and establish itself as the second choice after SpaceX. There will be value in being the best second choice. The US Air Force and NASA will support a second launch option.
New Shepard (sub-orbital) flew for the ninth time on July 18, 2018. The escape motor was fired shortly after booster separation. The Crew Capsule was pushed hard by the escape test and they stressed the rocket to test that astronauts can get away from an anomaly at any time during flight. The mission was a success for both the booster and capsule.
United Launch Alliance Vulcan Rocket
The Vulcan rocket, aka Vulcan Centaur, is a heavy-payload launch vehicle under development since 2014 by United Launch Alliance (ULA). The first launch of the new rocket to occur no earlier than mid-2020.
Blue Origin is building the BE-4 engine for the Vulcan. Rocketdyne has a competing AR-1 rocket. It seems like Blue Origin will win with the BE-4.