February 15 (UPI) — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space start-up Blue Origin has announced that its new rocket engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama, will begin construction next week,media reported.
The new Huntsville plant will be able to produce rocket engines at a higher rate than it is today, which will be important because the company is using its own BE-4 engine on its new Glenn rocket, as well as United Launch Alliance The New Vulcan launch vehicle, for short, provides thrust.
Blue Origin began developing the BE-4 in 2011, although it was originally designed specifically for the company’s new Glenn rocket, the company’s first orbital launch vehicle, but ULA announced in 2014 that it would also use the engines to power its next-generation Vulcan rocket. The BE-4 has a thrust of nearly 250 tons, uses a mixture of liquefied natural gas and oxygen as fuel, and has undergone a design from scratch to provide more thrust.
Blue Origin said it will deliver its first two BE-4 engines this year and will deliver them to UCLA (ULA) to integrate them into the Vulcan rocket for its first static heat test. Blue Origin also plans to launch its first test flight of a new Glenn rocket equipped with a BE-4 engine in 2021. The company is conducting longer tests to prove the engine’s effectiveness and will work to fully validate the engine through life cycle testing, designed to replicate the kind of stress and operating conditions that the hardware will experience during actual use.
Blue Origin’s testing process will include retrofitting and upgrading the 4670 test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, allowing the company to test and contrast both bee-3 and BE-4 engines.
It’s an exciting time for Blue Origin and its BE-4 engine, which has been in the works for a long time. What happens next could make the engine an integral part of America’s future space launch program, regardless of how its own launch vehicle program is implemented.