Currently, several companies are in a race to create new and powerful sspace launch systems with reusable essence. A key element of this ambitious goal is to develop alternative propulsion systems that do not require kerosene or hydrogen in combination with oxygen to function.
The Chinese company LandSpace scored a major victory in this competition just over a week ago when a methane-powered rocket reached orbit. SpaceX, Relativity Space, Blue Origin, and other players in the aerospace industry aim to achieve similar achievements, although they are a few steps behind.
A new challenge for the Blue Origin proposal
Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’s aerospace company, began work on BE-4 in 2011. This proposal, presented as the most powerful LNG engine ever developedis intended to bring to life the reusable propellant of the massive New Glenn vehicle and power the first stage of the launch system United Launch Alliance Vulcan.
The big problem that tarnishes its virtues is its numerous delays. While schedule changes are commonplace in the space industry, Blue Origin’s project took another blow last month that may complicate its plans for the future: the engine blew up during one of its tests.
Here’s why this is relevant: the company had promised that the BE-4 would be ready to fly in 2017. Certainly, we are in 2023 and that it hasn’t happened yet. Despite the setbacks, the company seemed to have reached a good pace of development, reaching the final stages of development.
This July, notes CNBC, Blue Origin should have finished testing the BE-4 before shipping it to its first customer, United Launch Alliance. These plans are now up in the air after a test run at the Van Horn facility in Texas on June 30 ended with one engine destroyed.
Jeff Bezos’s company confirmed the incident, but did not provide too many details. He said there were no injuries and that they are working on the root of the problem. They also noted that they have already identified the possible cause of the unfortunate outcome and that they are working on a series of corrective actions.
Blue Origin, which competes directly with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is confident. Not only does it ensure that you will meet your delivery commitments, but you will anticipate the launch needs of your customers. The history of delays, however, may not reassure everyone.
Images: blue origin
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