March 7, 2017
Blue Origin shows off new giant rocket engines
Aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has posted the first-ever images of the fully-completed BE-4 liquid rocket engine on Twitter, giving the world a look at the technology that his company plans to use to send its New Glenn rockets to the moon and back.
On Monday, Bezos posted a photograph of a completely-assembled, upright BE-4, then followed that up with a second image of the engine sitting in its cradle, showing off the fruits of more than four years worth of R&D work for the very first time in a social media post with no fanfare.
According to Gizmodo, the New Glenn itself is still only in the planning stages – and, in fact, the facility where it will be built is currently in construction in Cape Canaveral. However, the plan is to ultimately use the massive rockets to ferry humans and goods to and from a lunar colony.
Those plans, disclosed in a seven-page document sent by the Amazon owner to US President Donald Trump and revealed last week by the Washington Post (which is also owned by Bezos), would involve building a lunar lander and eventually establishing an Amazon-like service that would ship cargo, habitats and experiments to a human settlement by mid-2020.
“It is time for America to return to the Moon – this time to stay,” Bezos told the newspaper via email in response to their inquiries. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”
Private-sector space race turns its focus to the lunar surface
First things first, however – Blue Origin still has to complete its BE-4 engines, which have been in development since 2011, according to The Verge. On its website, the company says that it will have the engines flight certified by the end of the year, and that it will be ready to fly by 2019.
Once completed, a pair of BE-4 engines will be able to provide a reported 1.1 million pounds of thrust, and the company said that they are 100% funded by the private sector, meaning that these boosters require no taxpayer dollars. The New Glenn, which will be available in both a 270 foot and a 313 foot variety, will use seven BE-4s on each of its first stages, The Verge noted.
Bezos’s revelation comes just days after SpaceX head Elon Musk announced that his company was planning to send a pair of space tourists to the moon by the end of next year, some 45 years after the completion of the last Apollo mission, using its yet-to-be-flown Falcon Heavy rocket.
Musk said that the unnamed individuals had already paid a “substantial” deposit and were in the process of training for the proposed voyage, which would take the duo 300,000 to 400,000 miles (480,000 to 640,000 km) from Earth to the moon and beyond, before their spacecraft was pulled back into the planet’s atmosphere by gravity and a parachute landing ended their journey.
Image credit: Jeff Bezos/Blue Origin