Jeff Bezos Unveils Engine for Blue Origin Megarocket

Posted March 09, 2017

Blue Origin revealed key details about their New Glenn orbital vehicle, including innovative new features that will launch its first commercial satellite customer, Eutelsat, and improve access for commercial satellite customers.

Slated for launch sometime in 2021 or 2022, Blue Origin will carry out a mission to launch a satellite from French communications company Eutelsat into geostationary orbit. Blue Origin is also working on a three-stage New Glenn variant, whose upper stage will incorporate one BE-3, the engine that powers the company's New Shepard suborbital flight system.

BE-4 is already more than four years into development, fully funded, and will be flight qualified by 2017 - at least two years ahead of the alternative engine option.

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The deal has come up as the first big commercial contract for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' aerospace firm Blue Origin and its ambitious lunar rocket mission. Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment. Bezos envisions one day humans establishing a permanent settlement on the moon.

Also unike SpaceX or NASA, Blue Origin's end goal for its rockets leans more towards entertainment, a rather controversial position that has been criticized from the very start. From the outset, the rocket was meant to be reusable, and Bezos said during his presentation that it is being created to fly as many as 100 times. This video shows a New Glenn rocket undergoing lift-off from Launch Complex 36 which is situated at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. These will be fueled by seven BE-4 engines.

The BE-4 and AR1 will employ a staged combustion cycle, a more efficient engine cycle than now available on other US liquid hydrocarbon rocket engines.

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Jeff Bezos' new rocket just scored its first customer. Staged combustion engines now flying include the Russian RD-180 on ULA's Atlas 5, which the Vulcan will replace.

Dr. McDowell, who teaches at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, made clear that he had "full confidence" that SpaceX would succeed in sending space tourists around the moon, but suggested 2020 might be a more likely deadline. On its website, the company says it hopes to have the rocket ready to fly by 2019.

In a statement Tuesday, Eutelsat said the contract with Blue Origin "reflects Eutelsat's longstanding strategy to source launch services from multiple agencies in order to secure access to space".

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Shortly after the announcement, the Texas-based company posted a video simulation of a New Glenn launch and landing on an ocean barge.