A rendering of the Blue Ring spacecraft. We can see payloads and solar arrays sticking out, and what appears to be two ion thrusters. Credits: Blue Origin

Blue Ring Secures DoD Mission For Its Maiden Flight

The DarkSky-1 mission will test the systems of Blue Ring. The Pentagon is looking at the vehicle as a pathfinder for commercial logistical services

Blue Origin just revealed details about the upcoming first flight of their Blue Ring spacecraft. The vehicle will fly on the DarkSky-1 (DS-1) mission, sponsored by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit. The mission will check out Blue Ring’s essential systems. The Pentagon selected DS-1 to demonstrate commercial space logistical services, with the ultimate goal of securing access beyond Low Earth Orbit.

Blue Ring

Blue Ring represents Blue Origin’s entry into the in-orbit logistical services market. It will provide its payloads with power, communication, computing, and propulsion services. It’s also designed to deploy payloads in various orbits and refuel satellites. Additionally, its operating range will extend into Medium Earth Orbit and cislunar space.

An artist's rendition of Blue Origin's Blue Ring logistical platform. Credits: Blue Origin
An artist’s rendition of Blue Origin’s Blue Ring logistical platform. Credits: Blue Origin

While no clear numbers exist, Blue Origin has announced “unprecedented” delta-v capabilities and a payload capacity of more than 3000 kg. Conversely, today most existing spacecraft that offer similar services aim at the small satellites market.


The mission

DarkSky-1 will test Blue Ring’s core flight systems. Thus, it will demonstrate in-orbit data processing capabilities, telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) hardware, and the ability to track the spacecraft from the ground. The flight will last 12 hours and the vehicle will remain attached to the upper stage that brought it into orbit. While the vehicle won’t separate from the rocket, it will still be fully independent. The mission also aims at reducing risks for future flights.

An Atlas V rocket lifts off as part of the National Security Space Launch program. Credits: United Launch Alliance
An Atlas V rocket lifts off as part of the National Security Space Launch program. Credits: United Launch Alliance

“The lessons learned from this DS-1 mission will provide a leap forward for Blue Ring and its ability to provide greater access to multiple orbits, bringing us closer to our vision of millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth.”

— Paul Ebertz, Senior Vice President of Blue Origin’s In-Space Systems


Blue Ring will reach space on an undisclosed National Security Space Launch along other payloads. This could mean an Atlas V, a Falcon 9, a Falcon Heavy, or possibly even a Vulcan Centaur. An application with the Federal Communications Commission hints at a launch date in late 2024.

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Riccardo Dipietro

Riccardo Dipietro

Second-year aerospace engineering student at the Polytechnical School of Turin. Creator and admin of gourmet_space_memes on Instagram

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