The United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin have announced an agreement to jointly develop the BE-4, a new American rocket engine to replace the Russian RD-180 currently used on ULA’s Atlas rocket.

The agreement calls for a four-year development process with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019. The BE-4 will be available for use by both companies on their next-generation launch systems.

The BE-4 will be a liquid-oxygen/liquid-natural-gas engine delivering 550,000 pounds of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff.

According to a fact sheet, the BE-4 is a commercial development funded by private industry. Blue Origin has been developing the BE-4 engine for three years. Component testing is now underway at at Blue Origin’s facilities in Kent, WA and West Texas. Blue Origin recently commissioned a larger test facility near Van Horn, Texas for full engine testing.

ULA is investing in the engineering and development of the BE-4 to ensure availability for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. ULA president Tory Bruno said, “Blue Origin has demonstrated its ability to develop high-performance rocket engines and we are excited to bring together the best minds in engineering, supply chain management and commercial business practices to create an all-new affordable, reliable, American rocket engine that will create endless possibilities for the future of space launch.”

Blue Origin says that the use of liquid natural gas “enables autogenous tank pressurization, eliminating the need for costly and complex pressurization systems, such as helium, which is in increasingly scarce supply.”

“The low-cost availability of LNG enables an extended engine development test program,” Blue Origin states. “Further, the gaseous properties of LNG simplify decontamination of the engine prior to vehicle installation, while improving operability and safe operation for reuse.”

Written by Astro1 on September 17th, 2014 , Blue Origin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Rick Maschek commented

    When is someone going to look at developing an aerospike for flight?

    September 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm
    james brown commented

    Wow, something new for them. And it looks about one tenth the new rocket SpaceX is developing, probably for about five time the price.

    September 17, 2014 at 8:01 pm
    Unicorn Meat commented

    Congrats to Blue Origin and major Kudos to Mr. B, Rob and gang!

    October 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm