Everyone loves a good engine shot, and Bezos and Bruno are probably especially enjoying this one. Blue Origin shared shots of its BE-4 rocket engine in an important test phase today. Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is awaiting engine readiness before his company’s New Glenn rocket can take flight, and United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno needs BE-4 engines for its Vulcan Centaur system.
“For the first time, our Huntsville engines team has installed a [BE-4] engine into Blue Origin’s refurbished and historic MSFC Test Stand 4670 preparing for commissioning tests,” the company said today. Alabama is not only home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center but also Blue Origin’s engine production facility.
Blue Origin agreed to modernize NASA’s MSFC Test Stand 4670 seen in today’s images three years ago for BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engine testing. The 300 foot tall vertical firing stand was built and used from 1965 for Saturn V testing during the Apollo program, but it went offline in 1998 after being used for the Shuttle program.
Blue Origin and ULA first partnered in 2014 to jointly fund the development of the BE-4 engine, although both parties anticipated launches with the engine starting in 2019.
Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket will be the company’s first orbital class vehicle capable of delivering large payloads to space. ULA designed its Vulcan system to replace its aging Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V launch systems. ULA has already started testing its Vulcan booster with Pathfinder hardware in Cape Canaveral while it awaits BE-4 deliveries.
Update: Blue Origin currently launches its New Shepard rocket powered by the BE-3 engine. The company launches both crew and cargo from its West Texas launch site on a regular basis.