September 30, 2015 – Blue Origin has completed more than 100 staged-combustion tests in development of the American-made BE-4 engine. The test series achieves a key milestone in engine development, providing measurable performance data in advance of the upcoming Critical Design Review.
The staged-combustion testing configuration included a representative BE-4 preburner and regeneratively cooled thrust chamber using multiple full-scale injector elements.
“We tested a number of injector element designs and chamber lengths at a variety of operational conditions,” said Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin. “Rigorous component testing ahead of full-engine testing significantly increases confidence in the development schedule and projected performance.”
The test series confirmed pre-test predictions of injector performance, heat transfer, and combustion stability. Data gathered during testing was used to refine the design of the preburner and main combustion chamber injector elements, preburner and main combustion chamber sizing, and the regenerative cooling configuration. Testing also demonstrated the critical manufacturing processes for the thrust chamber and nozzle, including the use of additive manufacturing.
The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas (LNG) rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. In addition to its use on Blue Origin’s orbital launch vehicle, the BE-4 will be used on United Launch Alliance’s next generation Vulcan launch system for national security, civil, human and commercial missions. Development of the BE-4 has been underway since 2011 and hot-fire testing of engine hardware is ongoing at Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas.