Blue Origin has spent the better part of the past decade developing the BE-4 and proudly calls it the “most powerful liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled rocket engine ever developed.” While ULA is one of the key customers for BE-4, Blue Origin is also pinning its hopes on the same engine to power its New Glenn reusable launch vehicle. The company has been working on the engine in BE-4 since 2011, but it was only in 2014 that it inked the deal with ULA.
Back then, Bruno mentioned that the engine could be ready for flight within the next four years. However, Blue Origin suffered multiple powerpack failures in the following years, pushing back the development and deployment timelines. It was only in October 2022 that Blue Origin announced the delivery of two BE-4 engines to ULA that would power Vulcan’s first flight. In the meantime, the launch of Blue Origin’s New Glenn was pushed repeatedly to accommodate the BE-4 development delays.
New Glenn, which goes toe to toe with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, was originally scheduled for its first flight in 2021, but it was quickly pushed to the fourth quarter of 2022. That window arrived and passed without the first launch. Ariane Cornell, a senior commerce executive at Blue Origin, said earlier this year that New Glenn will be ready for the 2024 launch of NASA’s Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission to Mars.