Rocket Engines Designed for Reuse

Watch a BE-4 Hotfire

Blue Engines

Our Approach to Engines

Blue Origin’s engines are designed, developed and manufactured at our headquarters in the United States. Blue Origin’s engines provide great control with a precisely timed start, high-power thrust for launch, deep throttling for landing, and stop and restart capabilities. Since our first, simple, single-propellant engine – the BE-1 – we’ve built and tested multiple generations for suborbital and orbital spaceflight.

BE-3: Making History

The BE-3 is the first new liquid hydrogen-fueled rocket engine to be developed for production in America in over a decade.

BE-3PM

High-performance hydrogen engine designed for first stage applications.

The BE-3PM is the first new liquid hydrogen-fueled rocket engine to be developed for production in America in over a decade. It’s been designed to withstand the extremely low temperatures of liquid hydrogen at -423°F and combustion temperatures nearing 6,000°F.

Power and maneuverability

At full throttle during launch, the BE-3PM provides 110,000 lbs. of thrust (over a million horsepower). When returning to Earth, it can throttle down to 20,000 lbs. – a uniquely low throttle that enables a precise vertical landing, within mere feet of its target.

An elegant tap-off cycle design

The BE-3PM is the first tap-off engine to fly. We’ve designed a simple rocket engine, where hot gasses from combustion are tapped from the main combustion chamber and fed back to spin the turbopumps in flight. Having only one combustion chamber with a single ignition event enhances reliability.

Custom-made cryogenic turbopumps

We’re one of the few U.S. companies that designs and produces our own cryogenic turbopumps. The BE-3PM engine uses a dual turbopump design that produces enough pressure to support a column of water over half a mile high.

Efficient, sustainable fuel

Just like the Space Shuttle’s main engines, the BE-3PM uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as propellants. This combination is highly efficient and clean, producing water as the byproduct of combustion without any carbon emissions.

BE-3U Upper Stage Variant

We are currently developing and testing an upgraded version of the BE-3PM, the BE-3U, which is optimized to operate in the vacuum of space. Repackaging the engine components, converting to the expander cycle, and adding a larger nozzle maximizes performance and increases the thrust to 125,000 lbf. Two BE-3U engines will power the upper stage of our New Glenn orbital launch vehicle. With extensive testing and use of BE-3PM on New Shepard, the BE-3U will be one of the best understood rocket engines before it ever launches into space.

BE-4: America's next
Rocket Engine

The first ox-rich staged combustion engine made in the U.S. will power the next generation of American orbital rockets.

BE-4 Engine

The BE-4 is our fourth-generation liquid rocket engine, made to take us into orbital space and beyond. Using the latest design and manufacturing techniques, it’s made for commercial, civil and national security space missions.

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 pressurize a rocket’s propellant tanks. This is called autogenous pressurization and eliminates the need for costly and complex pressurization systems, like helium. Liquefied natural gas also leaves no soot byproducts as kerosene does, simplifying engine reuse.

The BE-4 is currently under development and will fly on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket in 2020, as well as our New Glenn orbital rocket.

Lowest Cost

Blue Origin’s BE-4 requires NO taxpayer dollars.

FULLY FUNDED

The BE-4 is fully paid for by the private sector, requiring no government funding for development. United Launch Alliance (ULA) – maker of the Atlas V and Delta IV launch systems – has chosen the BE-4 to power its next generation Vulcan launch vehicle. With an uninterrupted record of more than 110 successful launches, ULA is America’s most dependable launch provider. Together, Blue Origin and ULA are funding 100% of the development of this new high-thrust American engine.

BE-4 WILL 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 lbs. versus 860,000 lbs. 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.

Lowest Risk

Blue Origin has comprehensive recent experience developing booster engines and is implementing a low-risk development approach for the BE-4 engine.

No Drop-In Replacement

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. An engine with lower performance than the RD-180 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 lbs. of thrust, which provides a greater payload capability relative to the RD-180.

Multiple customers

The BE-4 will fly on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle and the Blue Origin New Glenn family of launch vehicles. The first stage of New Glenn will use seven BE-4 engines. With multiple launch customers, the BE-4’s costs are driven down, reliability is driven up, and long-term existence is ensured.

Blue Origin Engine History

Engine

Propellant

Thrust at Sea level

BE-1 Peroxide 2,200 lbs.
BE-2 Kerosene + Peroxide 31,000 lbs.
BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen + Liquid Oxygen 110,000 lbs.
BE-4 Liquefied Natural Gas + Liquid Oxygen 550,000 lbs.