On August 2, 2019, the company conducted a test of the BE-4 engine at its Launch Site One facility in west Texas.

blue origin

One of Blue Origin’s rocket motors exploded during a test last month, a devastating setback with potential implications for the company’s customers as well as the company’s own rockets, CNBC reported.

According to several people familiar with the matter, about 10 seconds after the test on June 30 after a misfire at a West Texas facility by Jeff Bezos’ space company, a BE- 4 The engine exploded. The people described seeing video of a violent explosion that destroyed the engine and severely damaged the testbed infrastructure.

The people spoke to CNBC on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public matters.

The engine that exploded is expected to complete testing in July. It is then planned to be shipped to Blue Origin’s customer United Launch Alliance for ULA’s second Vulcan launch, the people said.

A Blue Origin spokesperson confirmed in a statement to CNBC on Tuesday that the company “experienced an issue while testing Vulcan’s Flight Engine 3.”

“No one was injured and we are currently evaluating the root cause,” Blue Origin said, adding, “We have identified the immediate cause and are taking remedial action.”

The company noted that it “immediately” notified its customer ULA of the incident. ULA is a rocket manufacturing joint venture Boeing and lockheed martinits chief competitor is Elon Musk’s SpaceX, notably going head-to-head for the most lucrative military launch contracts.

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Blue Origin also said it will be able to “continue to test” the engine in West Texas. The company previously built two test beds.

Blue Origin added: “We will be able to meet our engine delivery commitments this year and stay ahead of our customers’ launch needs.”

vulcan delay

BE-4’s test failure could further delay the already delayed first Vulcan launch – here’s how Recently rescheduled to Q4 This year, Blue Origin is investigating the cause of the problem.

Each Vulcan rocket is launched using a pair of BE-4 engines. ULA waited anxiously for years to receive its first unit. A month ago, ULA achieved a major milestone in preparing for its first Vulcan launch, dubbed “Cert-1,” Rocket short-term static ignition test Uses the first pair of BE-4 flight engines.

In a statement to CNBC, a ULA spokesperson said, “The BE-4 testing issue is not expected to impact our Vulcan Cert-1 mission program.” The company noted that Cert-1’s engine “passed acceptance testing successfully,” Qualified to launch.

The Vulcan rocket for the Cert-1 mission is tested at SLC-41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 12, 2023.

United Launch Alliance

As ULA’s “Cert” mission name suggests, the company needs to successfully launch two Vulcan rockets to complete US Space Force certification for the rocket’s operational flight. With ULA about to retire its currently operational rockets, the Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy, the company needs to get Vulcan certified soon before it can start flying national security missions.

Last month, the Space Force assigned SpaceX and ULA each six missions under the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 program. All six of ULA’s NSSL missions will fly on Vulcan. In addition, ULA is preparing to bid for the Phase III contract under NSSL, and the Space Force welcomes strong competition.

Before Blue Origin’s BE-4 incident, ULA spent three months investigating its own explosion tests. In March, a separate part of the rocket, known as the upper stage, exploded during structural testing, requiring ULA to partially dismantle the first Vulcan rocket to reinforce the installed upper stage.

While ULA believes the problem is fairly easy to fix, it is now testing changes to the thickness of the upper steel walls to ensure the solution is adequate before the company reinstalls an improved version.

blue origin new glen

At the same time that Blue Origin needs to get the BE-4 up and running and rolling off the production line for its main customer, the company also needs to provide engines for the reusable New Glenn rocket it is developing.

While Vulcan uses two BE-4 engines, each New Glenn rocket requires seven BE-4 engines, meaning Blue Origin needs to produce dozens of them each year to support two rockets.

Both Vulcan and New Glenn have contracts to launch satellites for another Bezos-founded company, amazon. In the blockbuster commercial launch deal, Amazon has ordered 38 Vulcan launches and up to 27 New Glenn launches to launch its Project Kuiper internet satellites over the next few years.

Blue Origin also plans to use New Glenn to fly the lunar lander it is developing under a $3.4 billion NASA contract.

A mass simulator version of the New Glenn rocket will be tested in November 2021.

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