SpaceX’s main private competitor, Blue Origin, has taken one-small-step for manned space flight by unveiling its new rocket — the BE-4.
Hot off the heels of the SpaceX announcement last week of a 2018 lunar mission, Blue Origin’s founder, Jeff Bezos, stated his confidence in his plan to send two astronauts to space by the end of 2017, by revealing the engine that will propel Blue Origins next generation of rockets.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) March 6, 2017
The BE-4 rocket unveiling comes at the end of a six-year development process. The company expects to push the engine into commercial use by 2019.
The BE-4 is central to powering the upcoming New Glenn rocket (above) which will rely on seven engines to reach orbit.
Like its predecessor, the New Shepard, the New Glenn will be a reusable space vehicle with a first stage that can return to the launch site standing upright upon each flight. Unlike the New Shepard, the New Glenn will pack enough power to carry heavy cargo payloads and astronauts into orbit around the Earth.
There will be two flavours of New Glenn rockets — a 2-stage and a 3-stage version – and the craft is expected to be over 7 meters (23 feet) in a diameter and tower between 82 meters (270 feet) and 95 meters (313 feet) tall.
The first and second stages of the New Glenn will be constructed built around the new BE-4 engines, with the third stage incorporating an older BE-3 engine.
Blue Origin aim for the New Glenn to be delivering goods and people into space by the end of the decade.