The impressive BE-4 rocket engine test of the Blue Origin

Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, is producing a rocket engine named BE-4, which should equip its future New Glenn rocket and be delivered to ULA for the Vulcan launcher. After several years of delay, the machine finally saw the end of the tunnel.

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[EN VIDÉO] Blue Origin: the future New Glenn launcher is announced in the video
Blue Origin has published a new video, with computer -generated images, that summarizes in less than two minutes the key features and presentation of New Glenn, which will be its launcher. Compared to the previous version, we found that the upper stage and the headdress were redesigned. The performance of the launcher, which will compete with the Ariane 6 and Falcon 9 in the commercial markets and Delta Heavy and Falcon 9 in the U.S. government markets, is the same. Simply change, the main stage that can be reused a hundred times will be 25 times. First flight in 2021.

The force needed to pull 245 tons from the ground is what Blue Origin’s new BE-4 engine is supposed to deliver. This beautiful power babe finds her strength in combustion staged methane liquidwith oxygen-rich pre-combustion, a rare technology, which until now had only been mastered by the Soviets in their time, but that is returning, especially in Europe.

A little methane and oxygen, the recipe for success

It must equip launcher Very heavy New Glennis also under development within the company Jeff Bezosbut it is also the subject of a contract with the United Launch Alliance company, born from fusion in between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. In fact, the BE-4 should equip the first stage of Vulcanthe launcher that succeeded in fictional Atlas V. This contract was executed in 2014 to no longer rely on the Russian RD-180 engine, moreover the choice of methane is part of the current dynamics of the space sector.

Now two propellants are mainly used: kerosene (RP-1) and thehydrogen. The first delivers more force than the amount of thrust efficiency generated, the second is the opposite. Liquid methane offers a very good compromise between the two, is better than kerosene, remains simpler to manufacture than hydrogen with less complex machines, and is therefore cheaper. L ‘ecological impact is also reduced compared to RP-1, and at best, is equivalent to hydrogen rockets.

If the Vulcan is not intended to be fully reusable, the BE-4 can be removed and retrieved to be reused at least 25 times.

A wonderful test

Blue Origin released this awesome video of the BE-4 on the test rig earlier this year. From the first seconds we can admire the flow of fire that we notice is transparent. Again, this illustrates the compromise represented by methane: the hydrogen flames are invisible, and those in kerosene are dim.

Let us also notice the presence of cones bluish in the middle of the flame, these are Mach discs (or Mach diamonds), an excess density caused by the dynamics of working fluids.

After four seconds, the flame expands, thickens and becomes more impressive, a sign of the passage of the high-speed turbopump that draws fuel. The more intense the combustion, the pressure the gas outlet is increased and equilibrates to atmospheric pressure. The machine then tilts thanks to its gimbal: cylinders that allow the thrust to be oriented (called vector thrust). In real conditions, the gimbal of rocket engines is a solution to generate torque, and thus rotate the rocket towindor rather keep it stable on the correct trajectory.

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