Category Archives: Blue Origin

Blue Origin’s Bezos links the past to the future

seattle times
Jeff Bezos at the Seattle Museum of Flight unveiling the F1 engine

Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon and rocket company Blue Origin, recently gave a gift to Seattle’s Museum of flight which is a piece of America’s spaceflight history – Apollo rocket engines recovered from 14,000 feet beneath the Atlantic ocean.

This incredible bit of history was recovered by a team funded, and led, by Bezos himself, and a restored engine donated to the museum at his request. This would be an amazing act in itself, made more so by the fact that Bezos, through his company Blue Origin, is at the cutting edge of rocket technology today.

The Apollo F-1 cone-shaped engines, arrayed in a cluster of five at the base of each rocket, each delivered 1.5 million pounds of thrust and burned 6,000 pounds of rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. 600px-SaturnF1EngineDiagram

The massive engines, each more than 18.5 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter, burned for just a few minutes, long enough to boost the 50-ton Saturn V rocket to the edge of space.

Then the first stage, including the engines, fell away and plunged some 40 miles back to Earth and into the Atlantic, as NASA planned. What is perhaps surprising is how these engines, which afterall were designed by an ex-German 2nd World War officer Werner von Braun, are still so incredible even by today’s standards.

policeman with engine
A British policeman examines the wreckage of Von Braun’s early work on the streets on London during World War II
Saturn V engines
The Saturn V with 5 of the F1 engines. Credit: NASA

“This is still in some ways the most remarkable rocket engine ever engineered” says Jeff Bezos

Then he added, “That’s a little embarrassing. It’s 2015.”

But Bezos has less to be embarrassed about than most, as Blue Origin has been quietly getting on with the job of working on efficient engines, and recoverable rocket boosters. At its first attempt in April this year (2015) the rocket successfully flew to 58 miles, and the capsule landed well, however the booster was not recovered okay on this occasion. For Bezos and Blue Origin thought, its still early days, and there’s a great deal more to come from this exciting venture.

Thanks to Seattle Times and Bezos Expeditions for some material 

Blue Origin Develops BE-4 Engine Further

Blue Origin, the secretive rocket company based in Kent, WA, announced that they have completed more than 100

Blue Origin BE-4 Rocket Engine. Click for larger image, Credit: Blue Origin.
Blue Origin BE-4 Rocket Engine. Click for larger image, Credit: Blue Origin.

staged-combustion tests in the development of their new BE-4 engine. The series of tests combined to achieve a crucial milestone in the engine’s development. These tests provided measurable performance data in advance of the forthcoming Critical Design Review (CDR).
“We tested a number of injector element designs and chamber lengths at a variety of operational conditions,” said Rob Meyerson, president of Blue Origin. “Rigorous component testing ahead of full-engine testing significantly increases confidence in the development schedule and projected performance.”According to a release issued by the company, the staged-combustion testing configuration included a representative BE-4 preburner and regeneratively cooled thrust chamber using multiple full-scale injector elements.

The tests were performed and then compared to the company’s pre-test predictions for the engine. Among the tests were checks for injector performance, heat transfer, and combustion stability. Data gathered during testing was used to refine the design of the preburner and main combustion chamber injector elements, preburner and main combustion chamber sizing, and the regenerative cooling configuration.

The construction and operation of the test components also demonstrated the critical manufacturing processes for the thrust chamber and nozzle, including the use of additive manufacturing (3-D printing).

Blue Origin BE-4 engine undergoing staged-combustion test. Photo Credit: Blue Origin Read more at

The BE-4 uses liquid oxygen (LOX) for the oxidizer and liquefied natural gas (LNG) as the primary propellant. This combination produces a rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf (2.45 MN) of thrust at sea level.

Jeff Bezos, who is known for creating online retail giant, recently unveiled a new Blue Origin rocket that will use the BE-4 as its principle propulsion. At a press conference held at the Cape, Blue Origin announced plans to build and launch this new orbital vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Additionally, the BE-4 will be used on United Launch Alliance’s next generation Vulcan launch system. That rocket system is designed to serve national security, civil, human, and commercial missions. Vulcan will use two of the BE-4 engines for each first stage.

In late 2014, Blue Origin signed an agreement with United Launch Alliance to co-develop the BE-4 rocket engine. The Vulcan Next Generation Launch System is planned to succeed the Atlas V and Delta IV boosters. Currently, the Atlas V relies on Russian-made RD-180 engines. The need for a new engine arose with the geopolitical uncertainty in acquiring more RD-180s after Russia’s military actions in Ukraine in 2014.

Find out more at Blue Origin

Airbus Plans Reusable Rocket

Airbus Plans Reusable Rocket

French aerospace company Airbus announced its plans to build a reusable rocket, (well, partly reusable) named Adeline, to deliver supplies and people into low-earth orbit. The future of commercial spaceflight depends on someone cracking this, and now no fewer than six companies are now trying to get in on the reusable spacecraft game—and a few are already practically there.

The reusable portion of the Airbus rocket. Photo credit Airbus Space and Defence.
The reusable portion of the Airbus rocket. Photo credit Airbus Space and Defence.

The incentives are obvious: Reusable spacecraft will dramatically lower the cost of getting things into space. If you don’t have to build a new rocket or a new crew capsule every time you blast off, space travel becomes a question of mere fuel efficiency. That’ll make it much more feasible for companies to deliver things like satellites into orbit and people to the International Space Station…and beyond, if we’re to trust Elon Musk’s vision for our Mars-colonizing future.

Some companies are focusing on developing reusable spaceplanes that will function much like NASA’s partially-reusable shuttles did, transporting space tourists and astronauts to their (hopefully not final) destinations. Others are focusing on the delivery model.

Many of these plans (particularly from Space X) rely on inventing new and difficult technology, and one wonders if UK outfit Starchaser Industries hasn’t got it right with the simplicity of using parachutes rather than spending hundreds of millions developing something new. However, Named after Alan Shepard (the first American in space) the New Shepard is founder Jeff Bezos’s foray into the reusable rocket market. Bezos’s company Blue Origin ran the reusable rocket’s first test flight on April 29 this year, successfully launching and recovering the crew capsule but failing to recover the rocket.

Blue Origin launch. Photo credit Blue Origin.
Blue Origin launch. Photo credit Blue Origin.

New Shepard shepherded its capsule to about 58 miles in altitude before detaching and attempting a vertical landing. “Unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent,” Bezos wrote in an announcement.

We all know of Space X’s famous landing attempts for their rocket booster…you do have the feeling that they’re going to crack this one day, but I wonder what the total bill will be for development? The fact is that developing a new technology such as that is only the domain of billionaires such as Musk, but watch this space…