SpaceX and its visionary founder Elon Musk win the lion’s share of public attention in the commercial rocket arena, with dramatic, increasingly routine booster landings and spectacular stunts like the launch of Musk’s Tesla Roadster on the maiden flight of the company’s new Falcon Heavy rocket last month.
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.
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.