Space Commerce

Blue Origin Debuts the American-made BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 3, 2013
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Blue Origin Debuts the American-made BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine
BE-3 Liquid Hydrogen Rocket Engine
Blue Origin

Blue Origin reached a key milestone in the development of the liquid-fueled BE-3 engine successfully demonstrating deep throttle, full power, long-duration and reliable restart all in a single-test sequence.
The BE-3 is the first completely new liquid hydrogen-fueled engine to be developed for production in the U.S. since the RS-68 more than a decade ago.

The test demonstrated a full mission duty cycle, mimicking flight of the New Shepard vehicle by thrusting at 110,000 pounds in a 145-second boost phase, shutting down for approximately four and a half minutes to simulate coast through apogee, then restarting and throttling down to 25,000 pounds thrust to simulate controlled vertical landing. To date, the BE-3 has demonstrated more than 160 starts and 9,100 seconds of operation at Blue Origin’s test facility near Van Horn, Texas.

The sun sets over a test stand at Blue Origin’s West Texas facility. Photo credit: NASA

Designed and developed in-house by Blue Origin at the company’s research and development center outside Seattle, the BE-3 features a “tap-off” design, in which the main chamber combustion gases are used to power the engine’s turbopumps. Tap-off is particularly well-suited to human spaceflight because of its single combustion chamber and graceful shutdown mode.

“The BE-3 will gain extensive flight heritage on our New Shepard suborbital system prior to entering service on vehicles carrying humans to low-Earth orbit,” said Rob Meyerson, president and program manager of Blue Origin. “Given its high-performance, low cost, and reusability the BE-3 is well suited for boost, upper-stage and in-space applications on both government and commercial launch systems.”

At Blue Origin’s West Texas facility, the BE-3 engine demonstrated a full simulated suborbital mission profile, igniting, throttling and restarting on command. Photo credit: NASA

Blue Origin previously conducted testing of the BE-3 thrust chamber in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, as part of a long-term vision to provide safe, affordable crew transport to low-Earth orbit.

About Blue Origin

Blue Origin, LLC (Blue Origin) is a private company developing vehicles and technologies to enable commercial human space transportation. Blue Origin has a long-term vision of greatly increasing the number of people that fly into space so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system. For more information and a list of job openings, please visit us at

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.