Blue Origin completes full-power tests on thruster for orbital vehicle

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Launch vehicle builder Blue Origin has successfully tested the thrust chamber of its BE-3 rocket engine, another key milestone under NASA's commercial crew development (CCDev) programme.

The test of the BE-3, a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-fuelled engine, took place "earlier this month" at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, according to NASA. The final tests ran at full power, 100,000lb of thrust.

"We are very excited to have demonstrated a new class of high-performance hydrogen engines," says Rob Meyerson, president and programme manager of Blue Origin. "Access to the Stennis test facility and its talented operations team was instrumental in conducting full-power testing of this new thrust chamber."

Blue Origin will use the engine to power its unique launch vehicle, designed to launch its crew-ready spacecraft, dubbed simply the "Space Vehicle" into low Earth orbit. While some specifications and images have been released, Blue Origin has been secretive in terms of exact design parameters and technical progress.

The test will earn Blue Origin $3 million from NASA through CCDev, a programme through which NASA hopes to stimulate development of crew ferries to low Earth orbit. Three other companies were funded under CCDev 2 - Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada - that have since completed their milestones. Blue Origin did not bid for the more lucrative third round, the commercial crew integrated capabilities (CCiCap) award.

Blue Origin is also developing a vertical take-off, vertical landing booster and suborbital space vehicle called New Shepard. Commonalities between the suborbital and orbital craft are undisclosed.

Neither Blue Origin nor NASA responded to immediate questions.