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Kent, Washington based aerospace firm Blue Origin has released a new video showcasing its BE-4 rocket engine. The BE-4 is one of the most powerful rocket engines in America right now, and soon it will be the most powerful rocket engine in the U.S. after Aerojet Rocketdyne's beast liquid hydrogen engine, the RS-68, is potentially retired in 2024. The BE-4 will currently power two rockets. One will be Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, and the other will be the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Vulcan rocket with the Centaur upper stage.
Blue Origin Shares Rare Footage of Its Massive Rocket Engine During Testing
Throughout this year, Blue Origin has shared several footages of the massive BE-4 rocket engine. Like SpaceX's Raptor 2, the BE-4 also uses methane as its fuel, which is in sharp contrast to NASA's RS-25 (manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne) which uses the notorious liquid Hydrogen. Liquid hydrogen is the most powerful rocket engine fuel since it has high efficiency due to low mass. Still, this low mass creates a confounding set of problems which led to NASA standing down from its maiden Moon launch several times this year before a successful attempt saw the Space Launch System blast off to space in mid November.
One video of the BE-4, which was shared in June, was a remarkable recording of the engine's nozzle just as it started to light up. The nozzle is the bell shaped opening that is at the bottom of the engine, and located above it is the combustion chamber and the injector plate, and the video saw the plate bleed fuel before it was set on fire to generate thrust.
Now, Blue Origin has shared a new video in which it shares a clip of a test firing from October. The company also outlines that after finishing testing, it is now moving towards integrating the vehicle with the New Glenn rocket. Following this, Blue Origin will ready the engine for large scale production to meet what it believes will be an aggressive launch cadence for the rocket.
In terms of thrust, the BE-4 is right now America's second-largest rocket engine. It generates 550,000 pounds-feet of thrust at liftoff, higher than the SpaceX Raptor 2 and the RS-25. The Raptor 2, which features several upgrades over the original design, can churn out 510,000 pounds-feet, while the RS-25 can generate 418,000 pounds-feet of thrust. Out of the three, only the RS-25 is operational and has flown to space.
It is also the oldest design, after having flown NASA's Space Shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS). The largest American rocket engine right now is the RS-68 which generates an eye-popping 705,000 pounds-feet of thrust. However, this engine is not rated for human flight, and therefore it can not be used on any rockets that will take astronauts to space.
On the other hand, the New Glenn and the SpaceX Starship (which uses dozes of Raptor 2 engines) will be involved in crew transport at some point. Of course, it is uncertain whether the New Glenn will directly take astronauts to space as well. Blue Origin's only publicly available plans include designing a lunar lander to see crew transfer around the Moon's orbit instead of taking them from Earth.
The BE-4 will also power the Vulcan rocket, which is designed mainly for national security missions for the Pentagon. The rocket might fly before the New Glenn does, as part of a lunar lander mission to the Moon for an American firm.
You can take a look at Blue Origin's latest video down below: