Why Blue Origin's hot-fire test of its BE-4 rocket engine is a big step

BE-4 engine test one step closure to US move away from Russian rocket engines

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The U.S. is one step closer to move away from Russian rocket engine use after Blue Origin announced it has successfully completely a major test fire of its BE-4 engine.

The company, led by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, tweeted a video of the first hot-fire test of the BE-4 engine, which was taken on Wednesday at Blue Origin's West Texas facility.

The test at half power lasted about three seconds, according to the video. The BE-4 engine gives out 550,000 pounds of thrust. The engine is the most powerful in U.S. development.

“First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success,” Bezos tweeted Thursday. “Huge kudos to the whole @blueorigin team for this important step!”

The engine has been under development by Blue Origin to replace the RD-180 Russian engines currently used by United Launch Alliance for its workhorse rocket, the Atlas V. ULA launches, and taxpayer-funded NASA and government missions.

The BE-4 engine was developed without using government funds, Bezos said.

ULA, which will use the engine for its Vulcan rocket, offered congratulations via Twitter after the announcement was made public. The Vulcan is still under development and will begin launching in 2019, ULA officials said.

The test is a milestone for the Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, named after late NASA astronaut John Glenn. Seven of the engines will power New Glenn.

The completed engine test is good news for Florida's space industry because Blue Origin is putting down roots on the Space Coast.

A 750,000 square-foot Blue Origin rocket assembly facility is nearing completion at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park, located just outside the space center. The company will launch New Glenn from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36 no earlier than 2020.

“It’s progress towards getting away from reliance on Russian engine, which is good for America,” Dale Ketchum, Space Florida's chief of strategic alliances, said. “And, they’ll launch from the Cape, which is good for Florida.”

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