Blue Origin has conducted the first hotfire test of its BE-4 rocket engine in West Texas, a powerplant fueled by liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen that will power the company’s heavy-lift New Glenn rocket and perhaps United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan launcher, officials announced Thursday.
Blue Origin said Sunday that it lost a set of powerpack hardware for its BE-4 engine during a ground test mishap, dealing at least a minor setback to the development of a powerful U.S.-made propulsion system that United Launch Alliance says is the leading candidate to power the first stage of its next-generation Vulcan rocket.
A full-scale BE-4 engine developed by Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, is installed on a test stand in West Texas for a series of hotfire tests that United Launch Alliance will closely examine before settling on the reusable methane-fueled engine for its new-generation Vulcan rocket.
Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos revealed new details of his space company’s reusable orbital-class booster Tuesday, releasing an animation illustrating the rocket’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral and announcing a contract with Eutelsat to put a commercial communications satellite on one of the launcher’s first missions.
The Pentagon has awarded at least $162 million in contracts to Aerojet Rocketdyne and United Launch Alliance for development of the AR1 and BE-4 rocket engines, candidates to power the first stage of a next-generation rocket and replace the Russian-made engine currently flying on the Atlas 5 launcher.