For the last six years, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight outfit Blue Origin has been developing a powerful new engine for deep space travel. For the first time, Blue Origin has conducted a successful test fire of that engine, the BE-4.
The BE-4 is a successor to the BE-3 which powers Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket. A handful of successful launch and landing tests of what will become the company’s space tourism vehicle have already been conducted. The first crewed flights of the New Shepard are expected to begin in early 2019.
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) October 19, 2017
The BE-4 engine will power the heavy-lift New Glenn reusable rocket. Blue Origin will begin manufacturing the deep space launch vehicle at a new factory the company built at Cape Canaveral just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center.
Seven BE-4 engines will lift the New Glenn rocket creating almost 4 million pounds of thrust. This will allow the rocket to carry up to 100,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit where the International Space Station is positioned.
Blue Origin wants to launch the New Glenn rocket by 2020.
Earlier this year, Blue Origin suffered a setback in their BE-4 development when they lost a component during testing. “We lost a set of powerpack test hardware on one of our BE-4 test stands yesterday. Not unusual during development,” Blue Origin tweeted on May 14th. “That’s why we always set up our development programs to be hardware rich. Back into testing soon.”
The company signed the tweet with the hashtag #GradatimFerociter.
“Driven by our company motto, Gradatim Ferociter or “step by step, ferociously,” our incremental development process builds upon each success as we develop ground-breaking spaceflight systems,” says Blue Origin on its website. “But we don’t just build rockets—we build a culture around methodical innovation and exploration.”
The BE-4 engine may end up powering the rocket built and operated by Boeing–Lockheed spaceflight joint-venture United Launch Alliance. ULA is considering using the engine in its upcoming heavy-lift Vulcan rocket. For years, United Launch Alliance has been reliant on the Russian-made RD-180 engine to power its rockets.
As Starletters reported this week, The Vulcan rocket will carry Bigelow Aerospace’s B330 inflatable human habitat to lunar orbit.
Photo Credits: Blue Origin