Blue Origin is continuing to make progress on multiple fronts.
In a newsletter post, company founder Jeff Bezos tells subscribers that his company is advancing testing of the BE-4 LNG engine through construction of two new test cells. The first of those is a pressure-fed cell which will be used to support development of the preburner start and ignition sequence timing as part of a “full scale powerpack campaign.”
Echoing in many ways the decision making process employed by SpaceX, Bezos points out that the go-ahead for construction of the two new test cells came about after a lengthy meeting lasting all of 10 minutes. Concrete was poured only three weeks later.
In this case however, Bezos is not tweaking Elon Musk, with whom he has had an on-again off-again Twitter battle regarding their respective rockets, but instead the comparatively stodgy but politically connected Aerojet Rockedyne which is pulling out all the stops in an effort to convince Congress to fund that company’s AR-1 engine as an alternative to the BE-4 to replace ULA’s Russian built RD-180. The Amazon.com founder’s point, expressed politely, is that compared to Aerojet, which seems to be expending as much energy in Congress as it is in actual R&D, Blue Origin can “make and implement decisions quickly.”
For all the inaccurate reporting of a “space race” in the asymmetrical battle between SpaceX and Blue Origin, the latter in an actual race, one against time, as it seeks to test fire the BE-4 engine well before Aerojet’s AR-1, and thereby cement the deal with United Launch Alliance before other interests prevail.
The company is also continuing to burnish its credentials as the leader in sub-orbital flight and space tourism development with its New Shepard reusable vehicle. According to Bezos, Blue is working towards as fourth flight, one which will further push the boundaries of its experience with new maneuvering tests of both New Shepard itself, as well as the prototype crew capsule. In what will no doubt prove to be a fascinating exercise and be certain YouTube hit, for the next flight engineers will rig one of the capsule’s parachutes to intentionally fail in order to test the ability to handle such a failure with passengers aboard.