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More delays for Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine

Capitalism in space: According to a report yesterday at Ars Technica, more delays are expected in the delivery of Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine to ULA, possibly preventing the first launch of Vulcan from occurring in ’22.

Testing suggests the engine itself is functioning well. However:

Blue Origin is unlikely to deliver two flight-ready versions of the BE-4 rocket engine to United Launch Alliance (ULA) before at least the second quarter of 2022, two sources say. This increases the possibility that the debut flight of ULA’s much-anticipated new rocket, Vulcan, could slip into 2023.

Vulcan’s first stage is powered by two BE-4 engines, which burn methane and are more powerful than the space shuttle’s main engines. The sources said there recently was a “relatively small” production issue with fabrication of the flight engines at Blue Origin’s factory in Kent, Washington. [emphasis mine]

Translation of the highlighted words: We have built the engine, it is working great, but we have suddenly discovered we haven’t figured out the mass production process for building it quickly and in large numbers so as to support numerous launches by both ULA’s Vulcan and Blue Origin’s New Glenn rockets.

ULA claims it can get Vulcan off the ground only a few months after getting those flightworthy BE-4 engines because it has done most of the design work using the dummy “pathfinder” BE-4 engines Blue Origin provided last year. Don’t believe it. The company is going to have to install working engines on Vulcan, and then do static fire tests to validate not only the rocket but its entire launch process. Such testing usually takes months, and is rarely completed in less than half a year, even by SpaceX.

These problems at Blue Origin means that both Vulcan and New Glenn will likely launch more three years behind schedule. Instead of 2020, both will fly no earlier than 2023, at best.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

6 comments

  • Jay

    Thanks for the article Bob. After reading the article I thought there were only two sets of engines- the Pathfinders (which I call test article engines) and the flight engines. I was wrong, there are three sets; the pathfinder engines for fitting and loading only, the development engines which are for test firing but not flight, and finally the flight engines. So ULA is waiting for the development engines next. If all goes well in testing, the flight engines will be shipped next and installed.

  • geoffc

    And already out priced/classed/obseleted, before it even launches.

  • Jay

    I know we have been talking about the engines, but has there been any talk about the construction of the New Glenn rocket itself? I saw photos of the dummy first stage that they were using at the Cape, but has anyone seen the first rocket? I know they have the manufacturing facility there and was wondering about the progress.
    I guess we are kind of spoiled since everything at Boca Chica is out in the open.

  • Jeff Wright

    ULA needs to start all over and build Pyrios. Two F-1s and a J-2 upper stage.

    Go for low part count.
    Let Dynetics lead.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I have not heard that anyone is re-building F1s.

    People, right or wrong, get on Musk for over-promising and under-delivering.
    But man, Blue Origin has really done a number on everyone with the BE-4.

    ULA is dependent, and now Sierra Space as well.

  • Star Bird

    The USS Bonaventure NCC 102 the very first Star Ship to have Warp Drive

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