Jeff Bezos’ rocket company wants you to love its rocket engine

Kent, Washington-based aerospace company Blue Origin has released a new video showing its BE-4 rocket engine. The BE-4 is one of the most powerful rocket engines in America today, and soon will be the most powerful rocket engine in the United States after Aerojet Rocketdyne’s monster liquid hydrogen engine, the RS-68, which is likely to be retired in 2024. The BE-4 will currently power two missiles. One will be Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, and the other will be a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket with a Centaur upper stage.

Blue Origin shares rare footage of its massive rocket engine during testing

This year, Blue Origin shared several shots of the massive BE-4 rocket engine. Like SpaceX’s Raptor 2, the BE-4 uses methane as its fuel, which contrasts sharply with NASA’s RS-25 (made by Aerojet Rocketdyne) which uses its infamous liquid hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen is the most powerful fuel for rocket engines because it has a high efficiency due to its low mass. However, that low mass creates a confusing set of problems that led NASA to push back on launches to the Moon several times this year before a successful attempt that saw the Space Launch System launch into space in mid-November.

One of the videos of the BE-4, shared in June, was a nice recording of the engine muzzle just as it started to light up. The nozzle is a bell-shaped opening at the bottom of the engine, above which lies the combustion chamber and the injector plate, and the video saw a plate that expended fuel before being set on fire to generate thrust.

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A rare, gorgeous, low-resolution view inside the BE-4 shared by Blue Origin earlier this year. Photo: Blue Origin

Now, Blue Origin has shared a new video in which they share a clip of a test launch from October. The company also explains that after completing testing, it is now moving toward integrating the vehicle with the New Glenn rocket. Then, Blue Origin will prepare the engine for large-scale production to meet what it believes will be a strong launch cadence for the rocket.

In terms of thrust, the BE-4 is now the second largest rocket engine in America. It generates 550,000 pounds of thrust at takeoff, higher than the SpaceX Raptor 2 and RS-25. The Raptor 2, which features several improvements over the original design, can produce 510,000 lb-ft, while the RS-25 can generate 418,000 lb-ft of thrust. Of the three, only RS-25 is operational and has flown into space.

It is also the oldest design, having flown the NASA space shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS). The largest American rocket engine now is the RS-68 which generates an impressive 705,000 lb-ft of thrust. However, this engine is not rated for human flight, and therefore cannot be used on any rockets that will carry astronauts into space.

On the other hand, New Glenn and the SpaceX Starship (which uses doses of Raptor 2 engines) will be involved in crew transportation at some point. Of course, it’s uncertain if New Glenn will take astronauts straight into space, either. Blue Origin’s only publicly available plans involve designing a lunar lander to see crew transport around lunar orbit rather than picking them up from Earth.

The BE-4 will also power the Vulcan missile, which is primarily designed for the Pentagon’s national security missions. The rocket may fly before New Glenn, as part of an American company’s moon landing mission.

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You can take a look at the latest Blue Origin video below:

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