Enlarge / Frame from a short video of Blue Origin’s hot fire engine test Wednesday. (credit: Blue Origin)
New space company Blue Origin has spent the better part of this decade developing a powerful rocket engine for use in its orbital rocket, New Glenn, and potentially other US-based launchers.
This engine, the liquid natural gas-powered BE-4, has been closely watched both within the aerospace industry and in military space because it uses innovative new technology, has largely been developed with private funding, and is fully reusable.
However, while there was great promise with the new engine, it still had to perform.
And so the aerospace community has been watching development of the engine to see if it could pass a key hurdle—a hot-fire test.
After months of waiting, that’s what finally happened on Wednesday at the company’s facility in West Texas when the BE-4 engine fired at 50-percent power for three seconds.
First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success #GradatimFerociter pic.twitter.com/xuotdzfDjF
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) October 19, 2017
This demonstration sends a clear signal that there is a new player in the industry preparing to compete both for national security and commercial launches.
Some have derided Blue Origin for its original focus on New Shepard, a suborbital vehicle that the company plans to use for space tourism trips in a year or two. However, the brawny BE-4 engine supports the idea that Blue Origin is gearing up for orbital and deep space missions, too.
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