Blue Origin supplied the United Launch Alliance with the first BE-4 methane rocket engine: it will be used on the upcoming Vulcan rocket.
This week, Blue Origin delivered the first of its BE-4 ULA rocket engines, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The engine was delivered to a plant located in Decatur, Alabama.
BE-4 will be installed on the first stage of the promising Vulcan rocket, which is being developed as a successor to Atlas V. The latter has the Russian RD-180 rocket engine: it will no longer be on the new carrier.
Earlier it became known that the Peregrine lunar module developed by Astrobotic will act as a payload for the Vulcan rocket’s debut launch: according to plans, the launch can be made in 2021. Also, Vulcan will have to launch the promising spacecraft Dream Chaser, it will go to the International Space Station.
BE-4 may be one of the main advantages of the new missile. It is a liquid propellant rocket engine using a methane / liquid oxygen fuel pair. According to experts, today methane rocket engines are the most promising area in rocket science. One of the reasons is that methane has a wide raw material base and low cost compared to kerosene. In addition, the choice in favor of methane will reduce the amount of soot formed in the engines, which will lead to a reduction in the cost of prelaunch preparation of the carrier and, in general, will increase the reliability of the power plant.
In addition to the Vulcan carrier, Blue Origin intends to use the engine for its promising New Glenn heavy missile, which can be launched in 2021. Note that both missiles are seen partially reusable: in other words, they can be considered conditional analogs of the Falcon 9 from SpaceX.
The latter is now actively developing its own Raptor methane engine: it will be installed on the promising Starship spaceship, as well as on the Super Heavy accelerator, which will act as the first stage of the complex. Both components of the system will be reusable, which will increase its efficiency.
Blue Origin also carefully predicts the performance of its media. Earlier it became known that New Glenn should be cheaper than the Russian “Angara”. Recall that recently the Khrunichev Center announced the cost of producing one Angara-A5 rocket: it turned out to be three times more expensive than the Proton-M. The developer hopes that in the future the rocket can be made cheaper.