Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine is the fastest way to end American dependence on the Russian-made RD-180 engine.
More than six years into development
BE-4 is already more than six years into development, fully funded, and will be flight qualified in 2018 – at least two years ahead of the alternative engine option. BE-4 component testing has already been underway for more than four years and full engine testing will begin soon.
Ready in 2019
BE-4 is the only engine that can fly by 2019, meeting the congressionally mandated deadline to eliminate dependence on Russian-built engines. The alternative engine option is multiple years behind and could not be integrated into a launch vehicle until at least 2021, extending our dependence on Russian engines well beyond 2019.
Blue Origin’s BE-4 requires NO taxpayer dollars.
The BE-4 is fully paid for by the private sector requiring no government funding for development. A recent NASA “Justification for Other Than Full and Open Competition” for buying additional Space Shuttle Main Engines states that a traditional engine development program will cost more than $2.2 billion.
Save taxpayer money
The BE-4 saves taxpayers an additional $3 billion in national security launch costs over 20 years by providing higher thrust – 1.1 million pounds versus 860,000 pounds for the RD-180 – which enables a greater payload capability and allows for the removal of a solid rocket motor at more than $10 million per flight for comparable missions.
Blue Origin has comprehensive, recent experience developing booster engines and is implementing a low-risk development approach for the BE-4 engine.
Blue Origin has recently developed and flown the BE-3 hydrogen engine – a complex development program that delivered an engine capable of throttling from 110,000 pounds thrust all the way down to 20,000 pounds, enabling vertical landing of a single-engine booster. In fact, the same BE-3 engine was successfully used on five flights to space with a restart for powered vertical landings. The alternative engine manufacturer has not developed a new rocket engine in more than 15 years and has never developed an oxygen-rich staged combustion engine.
Blue Origin has assembled a highly experienced propulsion team whose members have held key roles on every U.S. liquid rocket engine development program in the last 30 years. In fact, more than 60 of the best people from the alternative engine developer have already joined our team.
No drop-in replacement
The engine proposed by the alternative engine developer is marketed as a “drop-in replacement” for the RD-180, but development of a true drop-in replacement for the RD-180 would pose severe technical challenges. The RD-180 operates at the utmost edge of high performance, with an extremely high chamber pressure of 3,700 psi and turbopump outlet pressures of more than 8,000 psi. In reality, the alternative engine proposal would result in an engine with lower performance than the RD-180 and would require significant changes to the launch vehicle to meet the required payload capability.
Lowest development risk
The BE-4 was designed from the beginning to be a moderate performing variant of the high performance oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle architecture – a conscious design choice to lower development risk while meeting performance and schedule requirements. Two BE-4 engines provide a combined total of 1.1 million pounds of thrust, which provides a greater payload capability relative to the RD-180.