The Blue Origin programme to develop the new BE-4 Methane/Liquid Oxygen burning rocket engine for the reusable first stage of its proposed New Glenn vehicle range had a major set back on 13 May when a key test of its major components ended in explosive failure.

Artist’s impression of New Glenn 3. Courtesy: Blue Origin

The “power pack” of the BE-4 was being tested on a test stand at the Blue Origin facility in Texas when it exploded.  The “power pack” is basically the turbomachinery and pipework which drives the rocket engine but without the combustion chamber or nozzle attached.  It consists of the fuel and oxidiser pumps driven from hot gasses generated by a pre-burner.

In spite of the setback, Blue Origin is confident that it can get the 2700kN engine programme back on track after the test failure.

Blue Origin is not the only launch vehicle operator planning to use the BE-4.  The United Launch Alliance currently has the BE-4 design as its first choice engine for its part reusable Vulcan rocket design.