Blue Origin to send two ESCAPADE spacecraft to Mars

NASA has ordered Blue Origin to launch a mission to Mars, known as Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, or ESCAPADE for short. NASA’s goal is to use the Blue Origin New Glenn launch vehicle to launch two spacecraft into Earth orbit, which will then take a course to the Red Planet. The launch is scheduled for 2024, if Jeff Bezos’ commercial company has time with the order. NASA announced its intentions on its website, but did not disclose the financial details of the contract.

An illustration of the ESCAPADE spacecraft in orbit around Mars. Authorship of the image: Rocket Lab USA/UC Berkeley

The ESCAPADE mission plan is to explore the magnetosphere and atmosphere of Mars using two twin spacecraft developed by Rocket Lab. Two orbiting probes will orbit the Red Planet and investigate how the solar wind has affected the atmosphere for billions of years, significantly thinning it. The results of the mission might help scientists learn more about how the planet eventually became so dry, since billions of years ago Martian water flowed abundantly on the surface. 

Blue Origin launches both humans and payloads using a smaller suborbital rocket called New Shepard. During the launch on September 12, 2022, the launch vehicle experienced anomalies, which suspended all launches. Blue Origin has not provided any details of the investigation in the five months since the problem occurred.

The new and more powerful New Glenn rocket will be available in two versions: two-stage and three-stage. The first option will be used to launch payloads into low Earth orbit, and a three-stage version of the rocket will be used to send spacecraft beyond the gravitational influence of the Earth. According to forecasts, the height of New Glenn will reach 95 m, which is five times the height of New Shepard (18 m).

Earlier we reported on how Blue Origin equipped an all-female crew.

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