A company spokesperson recently confirmed that Blue Origin’s latest rocket system suffered a catastrophic failure during a test launch in Texas last month.
One of SpaceX’s biggest competitors in the aerospace business, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin was testing its BE-4 engine for use in a Vulcan rocket or New Glenn reusable booster, reported CNBC.
A spokesperson for Blue Origin told CNBC that the engine exploded 10 seconds into the test on June 30. Although the explosion destroyed the engine and damaged nearby infrastructure, no personnel were injured.
“We already have proximate cause and are working on remedial actions,” said the company, according to CNBC.
Blue Origin still expects to meet delivery requirements for 2023. Its partner, United Launch Alliance (ULA), had a spokesperson tell CNBC that the failed test would not delay its Vulcan Cert-1 mission, noting that its engines had already passed testing.
Tory Bruno, ULA’s CEO, said in a series of tweets that failures such as these are “relatively routine” and that he was “very” confident that the explosion of the engine was only due to mechanical issues in that particular engine.
“Every engine, elex box, COPV, etc, gets an Acceptance Test (ATP) as they come off the line to verify good workmanship. (The one time Qual verifies the design. BE4 is qualified). The BE4’s on Cert1 have passed ATP, as have many others. This engine failed ATP,” said Bruno in a tweet.
Blue Origin has also partnered with NASA to design and develop a lunar lander for the next phase of the space agency’s Artemis program.
The company claims that its new BE-4 engine is the “most powerful liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled rocket engine ever developed,” as well as the first “ox-rich staged” combustion engine made in the nation. The engines underwent development testing in Van Horn, Texas, while full-scale production was undertaken in Alabama.
The New Glenn reusable booster will be powered by seven such engines, while two will be used in the first stage of the Vulcan launch vehicle from ULA.