Tim Furniss/LONDON


Beal Aerospace has conducted a test firing of its 810,000lb-thrust (3,605kN), hydrogen-peroxide JET-A kerosene BA-810 engine at McGregor, Texas, as part of the development programme for its BA-2 heavy-lift launch vehicle. The three-stage BA-810-powered BA-2 is due to fly in 2002.

Beal says the BA-810 is the largest US liquid-fuel rocket engine built since the Apollo Saturn 5's F-1, last used to launch the Skylab space station in May 1973. The original F-1 had a thrust of 1.5 million lb and the F-1A, which powered Skylab's Saturn 5, had a thrust of 1.8 million lb.

The former Soviet Union's RD-170, which powered the core stage of the Energia heavy-lift launcher in 1987-8, had a thrust of 1.6 million lb. A derivative, the RD-171, powers the Zenit 2 and the Boeing-led Sea Launch satellite launcher.

The BA-810, which consumes 1,360kg of propellant per second, has the largest carbonfibre-filament thrust chamber of any rocket engine. The flight version of the chamber will be 7.9m (26ft) long. Its exit cone will have a diameter of 6.1m. It is also the largest hydrogen-peroxide engine to be built and, according to Beal, the largest developed entirely from private funds. The propellant tanks are also made of composite filament-wound structures, made at the Texas-based company's plant at Frisco.

The BA-2, which will be able to place 5,990kg into geostationary transfer orbit and 16,965kg into low-Earth orbit, is 72m tall and has a diameter of 6.22m. Each of the launcher's three stages will be powered by derivatives of the hydrogen-peroxide engine, with the third-stage engine incorporating a gimballed, multiple- restart capability. The company plans to recover the first stage and to re-use several components.

Beal has abandoned plans to build and launch the BA-2 from St Croix in the Virgin Islands. A temporary launch pad at Cape Canaveral Spaceport may become the permanent base.

Source: Flight International