Blue Origin CEO Dave Limp and founder Jeff Bezos get a look at New Glenn. (Blue Origin via LinkedIn)

For the first time, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture lifted up its orbital-class New Glenn rocket on the Florida launch pad from which it’s due to lift off later this year — with the billionaire boss keeping watch.

“Just incredible to see New Glenn on the pad at LC-36,” Bezos wrote today in an Instagram post that referred to Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. “Big year ahead. Let’s go!”

Blue Origin’s CEO, Dave Limp, said the sight was “incredible.”

“Its size alone — more than 30 stories high and a 7-meter diameter fairing with 487 cubic meters of capacity — is humbling,” he wrote in a LinkedIn post.

The rocket-raising party marked the climax of New Glenn’s first-ever rollout. “Pending weather, the vehicle will remain on the pad for at least a week for a series of tanking tests, including flowing cryogenic fluids for the first time,” Limp said.

But the rocket isn’t yet ready for liftoff. The coming round of tests will be conducted without the rocket’s BE-4 rocket engines, which are powered by liquefied natural gas and have been going through tests in Huntsville, Ala., and at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in Texas. Eventually, the rocket will be rolled off the pad and back into Blue Origin’s integration facility for the installation of seven engines.

Kent, Wash.-based Blue Origin has been launching its suborbital New Shepard rocket ship from Launch Site One for nine years. That rocket is named after NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, who took a milestone suborbital space mission in 1961.

New Glenn — whose name pays tribute to John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut to go into orbit — is in a different class entirely. The heavy-lift rocket’s reusable first-stage booster is meant to last for at least 25 missions. It’s designed to land itself on a sea-based platform after sending New Glenn’s expendable second stage spaceward. The fairing, or nose cone, is roomy enough to hold three school buses.

New Glenn’s development timeline has faced a series of delays over the years. When Blue Origin revealed the rocket’s design in 2016, Bezos said he expected the first flight to take place “before the end of this decade” — that is, before 2020 — but it’s taken longer than planned to get the BE-4 engines and Blue Origin’s facilities in Florida ready for prime time.

The slower-than-expected pace has drawn unfavorable comparisons to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which was founded two years after Blue Origin but has grown to become the world’s dominant space launch company.

Bezos said he chose Limp, who previously served as Amazon’s devices chief, to become Blue Origin’s CEO because of his ability to get results quickly. “Dave has an outstanding sense of urgency, brings energy to everything, and helps teams move very fast,” Bezos said in last September’s announcement about Limp’s selection.

In today’s LinkedIn post, Limp insisted that this is the year for New Glenn’s debut.

“Manufacturing continues to make progress with multiple boosters, fairings and second stages in our factory. What a great set of milestones delivered by the team,” he wrote. “We’re looking forward to bringing this heavy-lift capacity to our customers later this year.”

Blue Origin says it has a full customer manifest, with launches penciled in for Telesat, Eutelsat and other telecom providers. The two most prominent customers are NASA, which is counting on New Glenn for the launch of its twin ESCAPADE Mars probes this year; and Amazon, the other tech venture founded by Bezos, which has reserved at least 12 New Glenn launches for its Project Kuiper broadband internet satellites.

Also today, Ars Technica reported that Blue Origin has emerged as the sole finalist to purchase United Launch Alliance, a joint space venture currently co-owned by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The report attributed that information to two unnamed sources, and quoted those sources as saying they expected the sale to be announced within a month or two.

Speculation about the potential sale of ULA has been circulating for months, with the price rumored to be in the range of $2 billion to $3 billion. ULA’s next-generation Vulcan rocket, which made its debut last month, uses Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines on its first stage.

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