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  Blue Origin developing BE-4 rocket engine

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Author Topic:   Blue Origin developing BE-4 rocket engine
Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-17-2014 12:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin release
United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin announce partnership to develop new American rocket engine

United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that they have entered into an agreement to jointly fund development of the new BE-4 rocket engine by Blue Origin. This new collaboration will allow ULA to maintain the heritage, success and reliability of its rocket families – Atlas and Delta – while addressing the long-term need for a new domestic engine.

"This agreement ensures ULA will remain the most cost-efficient, innovative and reliable company launching the nation's most important national security, civil, human and commercial missions," said Tory Bruno, president and chief executive officer of United Launch Alliance. "Blue Origin has demonstrated its ability to develop high-performance rocket engines and we are excited to bring together the best minds in engineering, supply chain management and commercial business practices to create an all-new affordable, reliable, American rocket engine that will create endless possibilities for the future of space launch."

"ULA has put a satellite into orbit almost every month for the past eight years – they're the most reliable launch provider in history and their record of success is astonishing," said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. "The team at Blue Origin is methodically developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability, and the BE-4 is a big step forward. With the new ULA partnership, we're accelerating commercial development of the next great US-made rocket engine."

The ULA/Blue Origin agreement allows for a four-year development process with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019. The BE-4 will be available for use by ULA and Blue Origin for both companies' next generation launch systems.

The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s will power each ULA booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. ULA is investing in the engineering and development of the BE-4 to enable availability for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 engine has been underway for three years and testing of BE-4 components is ongoing at Blue Origin's test facilities in West Texas. Blue Origin recently commissioned a new large test facility for the BE-4 to support full engine testing.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-10-2015 10:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance release
ULA and Blue Origin Announce Production Agreement for American-Made BE-4 Engine

United Launch Alliance (ULA), the nation's premier space launch company, and Blue Origin, LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today the signing of an agreement to expand production capabilities for the American-made BE-4 engine that will power the Vulcan next generation launch system.

The BE-4 engine offers the fastest path to a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180. Development is on schedule to achieve qualification for flight in 2017 to support the first Vulcan flight in 2019.

"This agreement gets us closer to having an affordable, domestic and innovative engine that will help the Vulcan rocket exceed the capability of the Atlas V on its first flight and open brand new opportunities for the nation's use of space," said Tory Bruno, president and chief executive officer of ULA. "This partnership enables each company to leverage its strengths, with ULA bringing production excellence and mission assurance, and Blue Origin bringing innovative engineering concepts and a commitment to lowering the cost of spaceflight."

"The BE-4 engine test program is well underway with more than 60 staged-combustion tests already on the books," said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. "This new agreement is an important step toward building BE-4s at the production rate needed for the Vulcan launch vehicle."

The Vulcan rocket brings together decades of experience on ULA's reliable Atlas and Delta vehicles, combining the best features of each to produce an all-new, American-made rocket that will enable mission success from low Earth orbit all the way to Pluto.

The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s would power each ULA Vulcan booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. ULA is teaming in the development of the BE-4 to enable availability for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 engine has been underway for more than three years and testing of the BE-4 components is ongoing at Blue Origin's test facilities in West Texas.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-29-2016 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance release
United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin Partner with Air Force to Develop New, All-American Rocket Engine

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin LLC, a privately-funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, entered into a public-private partnership with the U.S. Air Force to develop a new rocket propulsion system to power Vulcan — ULA's next-generation launch system.

"While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine," said Tory Bruno, president and chief executive officer. "As America's ride to space, we continue to meet our goal of delivering the most reliable launch systems at the most affordable cost, while developing a new rocket which enables brand new opportunities for the nation's use of space."

ULA has been investing in the development of the Vulcan rocket for more than a year. This agreement will enhance the company's progress integrating the BE-4 engine with the Vulcan launch vehicle.

Development of the BE-4 engine is fully funded by Blue Origin, with investment by ULA, and offers the fastest path to a domestic alternative to the RD-180. Development is on schedule to achieve qualification for flight in 2017 to support the first Vulcan flight in 2019.

The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s would power each ULA Vulcan booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff. Vulcan will launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Space Launch Complex 3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. ULA is teaming in the development of the BE-4 to enable availability for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 engine has been underway for more than four years and testing of the BE-4 components is ongoing at Blue Origin's test facilities in West Texas.

The Air Force also awarded a separate development contract to an Aerojet Rocketdyne-ULA team for the AR1 engine.

"ULA continues to work with both Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne to pursue two options for a next-generation American engine and that is why we're teaming with two of the world's leading propulsion companies," said Bruno.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 100 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-18-2016 10:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Update from Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos:
For BE-4, not only do we have to design the engine itself, we also have to develop custom tools to make it. One of these tools is an automated electrical discharge machining (EDM) drilling machine. The EDM precisely locates and burns more than 4,000 tightly dimensioned holes into the nozzle and main combustion chamber, providing entry to the regenerative cooling channels.

As far as we know, this particular EDM machine is the only one of its kind in the world. It has 11 axes of motion allowing for precise hole location and accuracy within a few thousands of an inch. Its dual-head design results in reduced cycle time for the drilled holes. Brass multichannel electrodes are used to drill the holes. Water can be pumped through the electrode in order to speed up the drilling cycle. The use of water also helps flush the hole and remove the powder-like foreign object debris generated by the process. This eliminates the concern for plugging cooling channels, which can easily occur with conventional drilling methods. A pair of automated electrode-changing stations allows the EDM to continuously operate for long cycle times at an average rate of one hole every 90 seconds.

Building and operating custom tools of this magnitude is a big investment, but it's critical for developing an engine that will power America's access to space in the future.

A pretty wise investment, if you ask me.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-19-2017 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Update from Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos:
Robert Goddard's first rockets used compressed gas to force the liquid propellants into the engine thrust chambers. While simple in design and a logical starting point, he quickly realized the limitations with this approach: it requires thick-walled heavy propellant tanks and limits the engine's chamber pressure and performance, both of which limit payload capacity. The answer was turbopumps. Store the propellants in low-pressure light tanks, and then pump the propellants up to high pressure just ahead of injection into the main chamber.

For even more performance, you can add one or more boost pumps ahead of the main pumps. We've done that on the oxidizer side of our BE-4 engine. Our Ox Boost Pump (OBP) design leverages 3-D additive manufacturing to make many of the key components. The housing is a single printed aluminum part and all of the stages of the hydraulic turbine are printed from Monel, a nickel alloy. This manufacturing approach allows the integration of complex internal flow passages in the housing that would be much more difficult to make using conventional methods. The turbine nozzles and rotors are also 3-D printed and require minimum machining to achieve the required fits.

The OBP was first demonstrated last year in testing, where we validated its interaction with a main pump. The second iteration of the OBP for BE-4 is now in test. We've also just finished assembly of the unit that we'll install for the first all-up BE-4 engine test.

We'll keep you posted on how our BE-4 powerpack and engine testing progresses.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-06-2017 09:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From Jeff Bezos on Twitter:
First BE-4 engine fully assembled. Second and third following close behind.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 03-20-2017 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Update from Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos:
Although the BE-4 turbopump is smaller than your refrigerator, it generates 70,000 horsepower from a turbine running at nearly 19,000 revolutions per minute that pumps cryogenic propellants to pressures just under 5,000 pounds per square inch. To react the forces generated by the rotating turbine and impellers inside the pump, production rocket turbopumps to date have used traditional ball and roller bearings. For BE-4, we're doing something different – we're using hydrostatic bearings.

A hydrostatic bearing relies on a fluid film supplied by a high-pressure source to provide support for the shaft and cause it to float without contacting the static structure except at startup and shutdown. The BE-4 main turbopump uses hydrostatic journal bearings for radial support and hydrostatic axial bearings to carry axial thrust. The system is bootstrapped. The high pressure fluid films for the bearings are supplied by the propellants themselves – liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen – tapped off from the pump discharge flows.

Material selection is a critical consideration for this approach, as there is physical contact between the bearing surfaces during the start transient before the fluid film is fully established and during the shutdown transient as the fluid film dissipates. With lab-scale tests and full-scale bearing rig tests using actual pump hardware, we evaluated over 20 material combinations in over a hundred tests, leading to our baseline material and coating choices.

Above: Finding its bearing: Orbit plot with starting shaft location (red dot) marking each revolution as shaft spirals to its center during propellant fluid film pressurization.

Extensive rotordynamic and computational fluid dynamics analyses have shown the feasibility of this design, and recent powerpack tests confirmed that this approach works during the startup and shutdown transients – the most critical phases. The shaft orbit plot below shows that the turbopump lifts off smoothly and centers during a typical start transient, demonstrating a smooth ride on a film of propellant.

Why do we go to all this trouble instead of just using traditional bearings? Engine life. We're relentlessly focused on reusability, and properly designed hydrostatic bearings offer the potential for longer engine life without refurbishment. This is one of the many engineering decisions we've made that we hope will lead to reusability – not just in principle – but to practical, operational reusability. If "reusability" requires significant refurbishment, inspection, and re-validation between flights, then it simply won't lead to the far lower launch costs we need to achieve our vision of millions of people living and working in space.

We'll keep you up to date as our testing progresses in the coming weeks.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-14-2017 06:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Blue Origin on Twitter:
We lost a set of powerpack test hardware on one of our BE-4 test stands yesterday. Not unusual during development.

That's why we always set up our development programs to be hardware rich. Back into testing soon.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-26-2017 09:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Blue Origin release
Blue Origin Selects Huntsville, Alabama for New BE-4 Manufacturing Facility

New 200,000 square feet facility to locate in Cummings Research Park

Blue Origin announced plans to manufacture its BE-4 engine in a state-of-the art production facility to be built in Huntsville, Alabama -- the Rocket City.

The new facility will be in Cummings Research Park, the nation's second-largest research park, and construction can begin once an engine production contract with United Launch Alliance is awarded. The BE-4 is America's next rocket engine and will power United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket, once down-selected. The production of this engine would end the nation's dependence on Russia for access to space for critical national security space systems.

Two BE-4s would be used on the Vulcan booster rocket. The BE-4 will also power Blue Origin's New Glenn reusable launch system with seven BE-4s on the reusable first stage and a vacuum-optimized BE-4U on New Glenn's second stage. Blue Origin awaits the final public approval processes of the local package by the City and County governments during their respective July meetings.

Using the latest design and manufacturing techniques, the BE-4 is made for both commercial and government missions. The BE-4 uses oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 lb. of thrust. Development of the BE-4 began in 2011. Testing of the BE-4 is currently underway.

"Alabama is a great state for aerospace manufacturing and we are proud to produce America's next rocket engine right here in Rocket City," said Robert Meyerson, President of Blue Origin. "The area's skilled workforce and leading role in rocket propulsion development make Huntsville the ideal location for our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility."

Blue Origin will employ up to 342 people in this new facility. The company will make approximately $200 million in capital investment in the state.

"This announcement today is excellent news for our state. I am pleased to see Blue Origin investing in Alabama, and I look forward to working with them and other businesses to continue boosting economic development opportunities," commended U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.

The announcement took place at the historic Davidson Center for Space Exploration under the Saturn V rocket, a nod to the community's aerospace heritage. Blue Origin builds on that aerospace heritage and positions the Huntsville/Madison County community in the commercial space industry.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said of the announcement, "We are excited to welcome Blue Origin to Alabama. I must commend founder Jeff Bezos and company President Robert Meyerson for their vision to create this innovative company, and for choosing to make Alabama its home sweet home! Because of this investment, more Alabamians can provide a better living for their families, and it helps cement Alabama as the preferred destination for the aerospace industry."

Many economic development partners contributed to the effort to successfully recruit Blue Origin to the state. These partners include the Governor's office, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the City of Huntsville, Madison County, and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.

"Blue Origin's decision to locate its BE-4 engine manufacturing center in Huntsville reflects the deep and longstanding capabilities in the city that became the cradle of the nation's rocket program," said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. "Huntsville is a hub of innovation in every facet of aerospace, making it the perfect home for this Blue Origin facility."​

Blue Origin chose Huntsville, Alabama for this project because of the high-tech aerospace manufacturing workforce and ecosystem, including NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, nearly 300 private aerospace and defense contractors, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, number 14th in NASA research funding in the nation.

"Huntsville is proud to be the nation's propulsion center of excellence, and we couldn't ask for a better partner than Blue Origin to join our team. When you look at NASA's visionary work at the Marshall Space Flight Center, the talent and capacity of Huntsville's space industry partners, and our expertise in research and development, engineering, and manufacturing, Blue Origin is joining a truly remarkable environment," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

"Today's announcement ensures that our community will continue to be at the center of the world's rocket propulsion development. Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin will build on the legacy of the German rocket team and the Marshall Space Flight Center to power the growing commercial rocket business that will be a critical part of our nation's future space program," stated Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong.

In support of Blue Origin, the City of Huntsville, City of Madison, and Madison County have provided funding for their three school systems to launch an experiment on a Blue Origin rocket in Summer 2018. The school systems will determine how to select teams, and then they will work with the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and Dream Up, an organization that supports space-based learning, to design and develop their payload.

"Blue Origin reinforces our regions' place as the Rocket City, and a center of excellence for rocket propulsion. Blue Origin's presence will have a positive impact on our State, our region and our community," said Chip Cherry, President and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. "This is an important development for Cummings Research Park's next era of expansion and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Blue Origin."

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38162
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-19-2017 02:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Blue Origin on Twitter:
First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success.

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