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Jeff Bezos says BE-4 rocket test went awry

BE-4 rocket engine testing
In a photo from March 2017, the BE-4 rocket engine’s powerpack is installed on a stand at Blue Origin’s West Texas proving ground for startup transient testing. (Blue Origin Photo)

In a rare update, the Blue Origin space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos reported that it lost a set of powerpack test hardware for its BE-4 rocket engine over the weekend, but added that such a setback is “not unusual” during development.

“That’s why we always set up our development programs to be hardware-rich,” the company tweeted today. “Back into testing soon.”

Blue Origin is headquartered in Kent, Wash., but the BE-4 is being tested at its facility in West Texas, on ranchland owned by Bezos. The powerpack is the heart of a rocket engine, pumping fuel and oxidizer to the engine’s combustion chamber.

The current round of engine testing is key to the company’s fortunes: Blue Origin is planning to use the BE-4, which is powered by liquefied natural gas, on its own New Glenn orbital-class rocket. Blue Origin already has started lining up satellite customers for the New Glenn.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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