Jeff Bezos has Amazon, drones, the Washington Post – and now he says he has a liquid hydrogen-powered rocket engine suitable for starting businesses in space.
Blue Origin, the e-commerce billionaire’s commercial spaceflight venture, announced on Tuesday it had achieved “acceptance testing” for BE-3, the company’s New Shepherd suborbital system, and would be “modified for upper-stage applications” that will presumably push the rocket into orbit and beyond.
Test flights are scheduled to begin later this year, according to Reuters.
Dave Sparks, formerly an engineer for defence contractor SAIC, said: “Usually when you’re creating a new part or system, acceptance testing is the last stage of testing, to make sure it’s acceptable to the customer.”
The customer, in this case, will be anyone who wants to go into space – Blue Origin’s stated goal is “dramatically lower cost and increased reliability” for space travel, with opportunities for researchers to study their subjects in microgravity, among other concerns.
If all goes as planned, the New Shepherd will be a three-person capsule atop a rocket filled with propellant. The next set of propellants to undergo testing will be liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas, in the upcoming BG-4.
“Liquid hydrogen is challenging, deep throttling is challenging and reusability is challenging,” said Bezos. “This engine has all three. The rewards are highest performance, vertical landing even with a single-engine vehicle and low cost. And, as a future upper stage engine, hydrogen greatly increases payload capabilities.”
Space tourism has grown in popularity and feasibility in the last few years: the interested parties range from PayPal billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX to new divisions at established aerospace concerns like Boeing’s CST-100 and Virgin’s Virgin Galactic.
This article was written by Sam Thielman in New York, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th April 2015 20.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010