Science & Technology

Blue Origin announces satellite launch deal with Thai telecom startup Mu Space

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, announced yet another agreement to launch a telecommunications satellite with its next-generation New Glenn rocket in the 2020s.

The latest customer is Mu Space Corp., a Thai startup that unveiled its plans for terrestrial and satellite-based broadband data services (plus space tourism) in the Asia-Pacific region just last month.

“We have entered into an agreement with Mu Space on a future launch of a geostationary satellite aboard New Glenn early in the next decade,” Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson said today at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

Meyerson didn’t go into the financial details during his presentation.

In a news release, Mu Space CEO James Yenbamroong said his company “shares Blue Origin’s vision of developing space technologies that will accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies.”

“We want to deliver equitable access to communication services for all and improve quality of life on Earth,” he said.

The agreement follows up on Blue Origin’s deals to launch satellites for Eutelsat and OneWeb, which Bezos announced in March during the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington, D.C.

Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket factory is currently under construction in Florida, with workers due to start moving in by the end of the year. New Glenn’s first launch is scheduled to take place by 2020.

Meyerson said the response to New Glenn’s development plan has been “phenomenal.” Based on input from prospective customers, Blue Origin decided to widen the rocket’s fairing from 5.4 meters to 7 meters (17 feet to 23 feet) for the first launches, he said.

The company’s suborbital space vehicle, New Shepard, also got a shout-out from Meyerson. Blue Origin retired its second-generation New Shepard last year after executing five successful uncrewed test flights to space and back. Now the third-generation vehicle is being prepared for a new round of tests.

Meyerson didn’t provide a timetable for the test flights, but earlier this month, Space News quoted a different Blue Origin executive as saying tests were likely to resume at the company’s suborbital launch pad in West Texas by the end of the year.

“We have a new upgraded version of New Shepard that has actually been shipped to the launch site, and we’ll be flying again before the end of this year,” Clay Mowry, Blue Origin’s vice president of sales, marketing and customer experience, was quoted as saying at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Week conference in Paris. “We hope to have human flights in 2018.”

Today in Adelaide, Meyerson said that New Shepard would provide up to four minutes of weightlessness for six passengers, and would fly as frequently as once a week. Blue Origin hasn’t yet announced ticket prices, however, and it’s not yet taking reservations.

Looking even further ahead, Meyerson touched upon the company’s Blue Moon concept for lunar landing missions. He said Blue Origin was interested in conducting “an early demonstration of a large cargo landing architecture.”

“We want to work closely with NASA on this program,” Meyerson said.

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