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.
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 instaged methane with oxygen-rich pre-combustion, a rare technology, which until now had only been mastered by the Soviets in their time, but that .
A little methane and oxygen, the recipe for success
It must equipVery heavy is also under development within the company but it is also the subject of a contract with the United Launch Alliance company, born from in between and Lockheed Martin. In fact, the BE-4 should equip the first stage of the launcher that succeeded in 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 twoare mainly used: (RP-1) and the . 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 ‘ 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.
You asked for a video – we listened. Notable milestones for this #BE4 included in the test: ???? Hot LOX/cold LNG started transient demonstration (bounding condition) ???? First engine exceeded 4000 seconds of accumulated hotfire test time, eventually achieved 5000+ second. pic.twitter.com/pLbUEdrzqG
– Blue Origin (@blueorigin) May 11, 2022
Let us also notice the presence ofbluish in the middle of the flame, these are Mach discs (or Mach diamonds), an excess density caused by the dynamics of working fluids.
To the tune of ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’
Imagine yourself with a rocket on a test stand
With the propellent loaded and live sensors
Someone runs checklists
You’re a little slow to count
And wait until the engine starts
Watching rockets fire Mach diamonds … (repeat) pic.twitter.com/zfaenX8HHz
– Scott Manley (@DJSnM) June 15, 2021
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, thethe gas outlet is increased and equilibrates to . 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 to or rather keep it stable on the correct trajectory.