Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine has been selected by United Launch Alliance (ULA) to power the Vulcan Centaur rocket, the Kent company announced Thursday, Sept. 27.
The new rocket will have a maximum liftoff thrust of 3.8 million pounds, and carry 56,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, 33,000 pounds to a geo-transfer orbit and 16,000 pounds to geostationary orbit, with greater capability than any currently available single-core launch vehicle.
As a result of this and other partnerships, the Vulcan Centaur will surpass current rocket capabilities and launch services at significantly lower costs, while still meeting the requirements of ULA’s cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Air Force to certify the Vulcan Centaur for national security space missions.
Here’s video of the BE-4 engine being tested:
According to the company:
The BE-4 uses oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 lbs. of thrust. Liquefied natural gas is commercially available, affordable, and highly efficient for spaceflight. Unlike other rocket fuels, such as kerosene, liquefied natural gas can be used to pressurize a rocket’s propellant tanks. This is called autogenous pressurization and eliminates the need for costly and complex pressurization systems, like helium. Liquefied natural gas also leaves no soot byproducts as kerosene does, simplifying engine reuse.
United Launch Alliance has selected Blue Origin’s BE-4 as the engine that will power the Vulcan rocket’s first stage. The announcement ends the need for the Russian made RD-180 on their next-generation vehicle Vulcan with the American-made BE-4.
Here’s a statement from Blue Origin’s CEO, Bob Smith, regarding the announcement:
“Today is a great day for the Blue Origin team. We are very honored that United Launch Alliance has selected Blue Origin’s LOX/LNG BE-4 as the engine that will power the first stage of their Vulcan rocket.
United Launch Alliance is the premier launch service provider for national security missions, and we’re thrilled to be part of their team and that mission.
We can’t thank Tory Bruno and the entire United Launch Alliance team enough for entrusting our engine to power Vulcan. The Blue team is looking forward to developing our production facility for our BE-4 engine in Huntsville over the next year.”
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) September 27, 2018
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