Jeff Bezos continues his efforts to make space travel more affordable for more people, but his commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin still has quite a ways to go before it’s making regular trips into space. Still, his efforts took a giant leap forward this week with a test of the company’s BE-4 rocket engine.
Bezos tweeted a video showing the latest test of the Blue Origin rocket engine, which is capable of 550,000 pounds of thrust. It was fired for 114 seconds at 65% power. The Amazon founder declared the engine test a success, saying that liquified natural gas, which is mostly made up of methane, is proving to be “an outstanding fuel choice.”
New test video of Blue’s 550K lbf thrust, ox-rich staged combustion, LNG-fueled BE-4 engine. The test is a mixture ratio sweep at 65% power level and 114 seconds in duration. Methane (or LNG) has proved to be an outstanding fuel choice. @BlueOrigin #GradatimFerociter pic.twitter.com/zWV0jWXIvx
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) March 13, 2018
On its website, Blue Origin claims that its BE-4 rocket engine is “the fastest way to end American dependence” on the RD-180 engine, which is made by Russia. The company states that it has been working on the BE-4 rocket engine for more than six years and expects to have it flight qualified sometime this year, which it states is “at least two years ahead of the alternative engine option.”
Blue Origin expects the engine to be ready to fly by next year, just in time for the deadline declared by Congress to end the nation’s dependence on rocket engines built by Russia. However, it doesn’t expect the engine to actually fly until at least 2020. The spaceflight company also claims that the BE-4 offers the lowest cost to taxpayers, as the private sector has paid for all of the development.
Jeff Bezos revealed at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner recently that he’s cashing in his Amazon stock to pay for his space adventures, which highlights just how much cash he has to pour into his effort. Time magazine reported that he was the world’s wealthiest man at the beginning of this year, and as Amazon stock has soared higher and higher, his wealth has only skyrocketed further. Time estimates that in just the first month of this year, Bezos added about $20 billion to his wealth. The magazine also reports that the Amazon founder has been raking in about $231,000 per minute this year.
Jeff Bezos is up against another celebrity billionaire in the space race. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been making major strides lately as well. The Tesla CEO’s wealth is much less than that of Bezos, but he remains highly focused on what he sees as the big prize in the space race: Mars. He said recently at South by Southwest that they’re on track to launch a rocket to Mars by sometime in the first half of next year. However, he also joked about how he tends to set overly optimistic timelines for his major projects, and Tesla’s multiple missed deadlines are the case in point.