Another commercial spaceflight venture has taken a step forward. Early this month, aerospace firm Blue Origin successful test fired its 100,000 lb (444,840 N) thrust BE-3 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine thrust chamber. The full-power static fire test took place at the E-1 test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi and is part of Blue Origin’s program to develop a launch system for its manned Space Vehicle.

Set up by founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is working on a number of space projects, most notably its Shepard suborbital spacecraft. The BE-3 engine is part of Blue Origin’s Reusable Booster System (RBS), which will be used to boost the biconic-shaped Space Vehicle, which the company is also developing. The Space Vehicle and booster are part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) intended to spur development of American manned commercial space vehicles for hire by NASA and private customers.

Artist's concept of the Blue Origin crew capsule (Image: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin is conducting the engine test under a US$22 million dollar contract for the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2). As part of CCDev2, the Federal Aviation Administration and the company carried out an assessment and review of the Space Vehicle to determine if the spacecraft meets safety and mission requirements for low-Earth orbit flight. This review includes over 100 wind tunnels tests as well as assessments of the vehicle's aerodynamic design and flight and cross-range maneuverability.

Source: NASA

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