The Blue Origin space venture, backed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, says it has successfully test-fired its BE-4 rocket engine.

This is a key milestone towards the development of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, as well as United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket.

The aerospace industry has been watching the progress of the BE-4 engine closely because it uses advanced technology and is reusable and privately funded.

The Blue Origin website describes it like this: “The BE-4 uses oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 lbs. of thrust. Liquefied natural gas is commercially available, affordable, and highly efficient for spaceflight. Unlike other rocket fuels, such as kerosene, liquefied natural gas can be used to pressurise a rocket’s propellant tanks. This is called autogenous pressurisation and eliminates the need for costly and complex pressurisation systems, like helium. Liquefied natural gas also leaves no soot byproducts as kerosene does, simplifying engine reuse.”

Blue Origin tweeted: “First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success.” Many have been waiting to see the hot-fire test as a demonstration that the engine can live up to its promise.

Phil Larson, a space expert and assistant dean of engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, is quoted as saying: “As Joe Biden would say, this is a BFD for the space industry — and goes to show we’re accelerating into the moment where commercial space is driving our national space infrastructure.”

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