Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA) is working in conjunction with Blue Origin to accelerate production of the BE-4 engine for Vulcan, the next-generation launch system.
According to the ULA CEO and president Tory Bruno:
"This agreement gets us closer to having an affordable, domestic and innovative engine that will help the Vulcan rocket exceed the capability of the Atlas V on its first flight, and open brand new opportunities for the nation's use of space. This partnership enables each company to leverage its strengths, with ULA bringing production excellence and mission assurance, and Blue Origin bringing innovative engineering concepts and a commitment to lowering the cost of spaceflight."
The BE-4 is considered to be an American-made liquid rocket engine that is engineered for orbital launch vehicle boost applications. The BE-4 uses liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquid oxygen as an oxidizer, and undergoes an oxygen-rich staged combustion (ORSC) cycle. The engine will be ready for flight in 2017. With all these factors put into place, the rocket engine will be able to produce over 525,000 pounds of thrust at sea level.
Blue Origin LLC is owned by Jeff Bezos, who happens to be the founder of Amazon.
“This new agreement is an important step toward building BE-4s at the production rate needed for the Vulcan launch vehicle. The BE-4 engine test program is well underway with more than 60 staged-combustion tests already on the books."
The BE-4 engine is planned to be used on the Vulcan rocket. Each Vulcan booster will be powered by two BE-4 engines which will give a combined thrust of over 1 million pounds at lift-off. ULA also has been working on a reusable launcher which was unveiled in April.
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