Jeff Bezos tweets latest BE-4 engine test footage
Blue Origin has successfully tested its BE-4 engine at its longest duration yet revealed by the secretive spaceflight company. In a video tweeted out by the company’s founder, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, it was announced that the engine, which is capable of 550,000 pounds (2,400 kilonewtons) of thrust, was tested at 65 percent of full-power for about 114 seconds.
New test video of Blue’s 550K lbf thrust, ox-rich staged combustion, LNG-fueled BE-4 engine. The test is a mixture ratio sweep at 65% power level and 114 seconds in duration. Methane (or LNG) has proved to be an outstanding fuel choice. @BlueOrigin #GradatimFerociter pic.twitter.com/zWV0jWXIvx
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) March 13, 2018
Development on the BE-4 began in 2011, but it did not become public until 2014. It consumes liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen in an oxygen-rich staged combustion process. Seven will be used on the first stage of the company’s upcoming New Glenn rocket and is a contender to be used on United Launch Alliance’s upcoming Vulcan rocket.
The first fully-assembled engine was completed in March 2017 for testing. However, Blue Origin suffered a setback in May 2017 when it was reported that a test anomaly resulted in the loss of a set of powerpack hardware.
Finally, in October 2017, BE-4 was fired for the first time at the company’s West Texas facility. That resulted in a three-second test at 50 percent thrust level. Another test in January 2018 evaluated the engines deep-throttle capability.
Once testing is completed, Blue Origin intends to make production engines in Huntsville, Alabama, which will likely be integrated into the New Glenn rocket at the company’s recently-built production facility at Exploration Park near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The first flights of Blue Origin’s New Glenn and ULA’s Vulcan rockets are not expected until 2020 at the earliest.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.