Author Topic: Blue Origin : BE-3 and BE-3U Engine  (Read 119810 times)

Offline GraniteHound92

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Blue Origin : BE-3 and BE-3U Engine
« on: 01/21/2013 09:02 pm »
Anyone have info on Blue Origin's BE-3 engine?  All I've found on it so far was presented at NASA's Commercial Crew Program update a couple weeks ago.  Slide 17 of this .pdf http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/718299main_CCP-Status-Update-1-9-13-finalSM.pdf.  I contacted Blue Origin on Twitter, and they said they couldn't give public timelines for the engine's development.  I'd really like to figure out when they will fly it, and on what vehicles they plan to use it.
« Last Edit: 06/01/2023 10:57 pm by zubenelgenubi »

Offline daveklingler

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #1 on: 01/25/2013 12:44 am »
I agree with you that the BE-3 has the potential to be significant, depending on what BO plans to do with it.  I also agree that it's curious.

The level of progress they've made doesn't seem to agree with their design review level.  They've only just passed their SRR, yet they're doing full-up engine testing and they've already tested the thrust chamber at full throttle range.  Huh?  In the normal sequence of events you decide what you're going to use the engine for before you develop it.

I'm guessing that their internal planning is more advanced than the Commercial Crew SRR they did last year would seem to suggest.

Also in the "what's it for" department, here's Blue Origin telling everyone they plan to do incremental development starting with a suborbital rocket, but they're within a year or two of having a restartable, deep-throttling LOX/LH engine.  I can think of a lot of things I'd do with that engine, but suborbital tourism isn't one of them.  Heck, I'm not even sure LEO's one of them.  Again...huh?

So, in summary, I really don't blame you for being curious.  And now you've gotten me curious.

Offline Afrocle

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #2 on: 01/25/2013 01:33 am »
Anyone have info on Blue Origin's BE-3 engine?  All I've found on it so far was presented at NASA's Commercial Crew Program update a couple weeks ago.  Slide 17 of this .pdf http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/718299main_CCP-Status-Update-1-9-13-finalSM.pdf.  I contacted Blue Origin on Twitter, and they said they couldn't give public timelines for the engine's development.  I'd really like to figure out when they will fly it, and on what vehicles they plan to use it.

Blue Origin stated in an October 2012 press interview that a single BE-3 LOX/LH2 engine (with 100,000-lbf thrust) would replace the 5 BE-2 Peroxide/RP-1 engines (with ~ 165,000-lbf thrust total) on their New Sheppard sub-orbital space launch vehicle which they have been building since the last New Sheppard blew up in a test flight in 2011. BO said the dimensions of New Sheppard would be about the same despite the fact that LH2 has a lower density, so this probably accounts for the single BE-3 engine having less thrust than the 5 BE-2 engines it is replacing and still being able to lift this sub-orbital rocket.

BO also said recently that the BE-3 engine is fully integrated and ready for testing now as an integrated engine on a test stand.

BO has not said what type of engine cycle it is using for the BE-3, but I would guess a low performance gas generator cycle or open expander cycle with Isp comparable to the RS-68 engine at sea level (~ 365 sec)and the 1960s vintage J-2 engine (i.e. 425 sec) when optimized for  vacuum. I speculate this, because BO supposedly used Barber Nichol pumps (similar to SpaceX Merlin engine) and a gas generator cycle on their BE-2 engine, and BO does not need highly optimized performance to reach their goals of an orbital RLV vehicle (with expendable 2nd stage)that can place 10-tons into LEO. These specs for a BE-3 engine should allow 9 BE-3 first stage engines and 1 BE-3 upper stage engine to launch 10 tons into LEO while having enough fuel and structural margin on the 1st stage to have it boost back to the launch site.

I would guess that BO could do full 60-second+ test runs of their BE-3 engine by the end of this year and could have their BE-3 engine integrated for flight in their New Sheppard rocket by the end of 2014. This would follow similar timelines for the SpaceX Merlin engine at its early stages of development from full length test firing at the end of 2004 to first test flight on Falcon 1 in early 2006.

Offline Afrocle

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #3 on: 01/25/2013 01:20 pm »
In the above post I discuss potential (speculated) BE-3 engine use of the open expander cycle. This is a lower performance expander cycle and it is also called the expander bleed cycle.

Mitsubishi in Japan is developing the 300,000-lbf thrust LOX/LH2 open expander cycle LE-X engine for future human-rated JAXA rockets like the proposed H-X or H-3 rockets. The vacuum performance of the LE-X engine would be 435 sec Isp versus an Isp of over 465 sec for the RL10 upper stage engine on Atlas V or Delta IV upper stages.

The below paper from Mitsubishi details the open gas generator and expander cycles used on the Japanese LE-5 engines and the use of the open expander bleed cycle on the 300,000-lbf thrust LE-X engine:
http://www.mhi.co.jp/technology/review/pdf/e484/e484036.pdf

The expander cycle is supposedly an easier cycle for engine throttling and engine re-start.

BO may start BE-3 development with either the open gas generator cycle or the open expander cycle, because these are easier and safer cycles for rocket engine development eventhough they may have a 30-sec Isp performance drop when compared to staged combustion or closed expander cycle engines.
« Last Edit: 01/25/2013 01:22 pm by Afrocle »

Offline simonbp

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #4 on: 01/25/2013 08:37 pm »
Also, RL-10 is an expander, and seemed to be fine deep throttling on DC-X. Given that Blue Origin's goal from the start has been an operational DC-X, it wouldn't be surprising if they are using an RL-10 style engine...
« Last Edit: 01/25/2013 08:38 pm by simonbp »

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #5 on: 01/25/2013 08:39 pm »
Also, RL-10 is an expander, and seemed to be fine deep throttling on DC-X. Given that Blue Origin's goal from the start has been an operational DC-X, it wouldn't be surprising if they are using an RL-10 style engine...
Thats what I was thinking too. The RL10 had a much lower thrust though...

Offline Afrocle

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #6 on: 01/25/2013 09:28 pm »
Also, RL-10 is an expander, and seemed to be fine deep throttling on DC-X. Given that Blue Origin's goal from the start has been an operational DC-X, it wouldn't be surprising if they are using an RL-10 style engine...
Thats what I was thinking too. The RL10 had a much lower thrust though...

The wikipedia page says that a benefit of expander bleed cycle over closed expander cycle is higher thust at the expense of lower Isp.

The RL10 is a closed expander cycle engine with higher performance (up to 470 sec Isp) than the open expander bleed cycle Japanese LE-5 engine (at 447 sec Isp). Japanese LE-X increases thrust to 300,000-lbf (at 432 sec Isp) which used to be unheard of for an expander cycle engine. Expander bleed cycle has lower performance comparable to a gas generator cycle engine like J-2X or original LE-5 GG engines (448 sec Isp).

I think only the Russians have successfully copied RL10 closed expander cycle with their RD-0146 engine copy (which has not flown yet) of the RL10, and only Japanese have successfully flown expander bleed cycle.

P&W Rocketdyne and Mitsubishi have been talking a 50,000-lbf+ thrust class RL60 or MBXX expander cycle higher thrust upgrade to RL10 for about 10 years, so I am thinking that it is harder than people think to take closed expander cycle engines to more than 30,000-lbf thrust.

I think that BO only has experience with gas generator cycle engines, and this Space.com article from 6 years ago says they were looking to hire RS 68 propulsion engineers who have experience with high thrust levels (i.e. GG cycle used on RS 68).
http://www.space.com/3318-amazon-founder-rocket-plans-flight-details-images-emerge.html

I would like to think that the BE-3 uses expander cycle, but it seems a lot easier for BO to start the higher 100,000-lbf thrust BE-3 with a gas generator cycle that they understand, and then upgrade that to an expander bleed cycle in the future as the Japanese have done with LE-5 engine.

The 100,000-lbf thrust of BE-3 makes me think that expander cycle is too big a leap for the BO engine team, because no one in the world has tested an expander cycle at that high a thrust level yet (the Japanese might start testing LE-X this year). BO has the money and talent to prove me wrong, however.


Offline baldusi

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #7 on: 01/26/2013 02:04 pm »
Have you heard of the Vinci engine? Problem with closed expanders is the your surface expands to the square, while your volumes to the cube. Since the surface is your heat transmition budget and your volume your heat sink requirement, at some point, you simply can't transfer enough heat to expand. I've heard 300kN being the utlimate limit. RD-0146 does about 95kN to 75kN, RL-10 about 100kN and Vinci 180kN. So they are "close to the limit".
A benefit of expander cyclers is their reliability. The RL-10 can eat contaminants in the turbo like no other engine.

Offline GraniteHound92

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #8 on: 01/26/2013 04:35 pm »
Quote
The below paper from Mitsubishi details the open gas generator and expander cycles used on the Japanese LE-5 engines and the use of the open expander bleed cycle on the 300,000-lbf thrust LE-X engine:
http://www.mhi.co.jp/technology/review/pdf/e484/e484036.pdf

That paper is very informative.

I understand the need of a company to protect their intellectual property, but I wish BO was a little more transparent in the development of their vehicles and engines.  They have received nearly 26 million dollars from the US government.  It'd be nice to know what we're paying for.

Offline Joel

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #9 on: 01/26/2013 11:35 pm »
Well, there is the video of the BE-3 thrust chamber firing. I guess a knowledgeable person with a bit of free time would be able to draw some conclusions from it. Maybe you can even get an educated guess for the chamber pressure?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=IvVdD6qqROM#t=1270s

Thrust chamber firing is 21 minutes in.

P.S. A bit earlier in the presentation, there is also an explanation about what concerned US taxpayers got for the money they invested in the company...
« Last Edit: 01/26/2013 11:48 pm by Joel »

Offline Afrocle

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #10 on: 01/27/2013 02:46 am »
Have you heard of the Vinci engine? Problem with closed expanders is the your surface expands to the square, while your volumes to the cube. Since the surface is your heat transmition budget and your volume your heat sink requirement, at some point, you simply can't transfer enough heat to expand. I've heard 300kN being the utlimate limit. RD-0146 does about 95kN to 75kN, RL-10 about 100kN and Vinci 180kN. So they are "close to the limit".
A benefit of expander cyclers is their reliability. The RL-10 can eat contaminants in the turbo like no other engine.

I did not mention the Vinci, a closed expander cycle engine, because ESA usually lags behind other nations in terms of rocket engine development, and they seem to still be far away from having Vinci ready for service. The RL10 and its Russian copy, the RD-0146, are the only closed expander cycle engines I know of that have done full tests, and the RL10 is the only one to have flown.

The Chinese and the Indians have also wanted to develop closed expander cycle engines like the RL10, but the Russians have not given them the help they need.

You are right on the squared/cubed law limitations on expander cycles, and Japanese overcome this with a lower Isp on their expander bleed cycle on their new 300,000-lbf thrust LE-X engine.

This makes me think even more that the BE-3 engine will start with a much easier gas generator cycle and BO will upgrade to better cycles years in the future.

Offline tnphysics

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #11 on: 01/27/2013 04:53 am »
There is also the third-fluid-cooled cycle.

Basically use the heat from the combustion chamber and nozzle to boil water, making steam that turns the turbines.

Offline Damon Hill

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #12 on: 01/27/2013 05:52 am »
I believe the RL60 development engine, which used separate expander turbines for fuel and oxidizer, was tested to 60,000 or slightly more.

LE-X uses a dual expander cycle, which apparently extracts more energy from the entire combustion chamber/throat/nozzle surface.  P/W in the past has said a dual expander could run to at least 300,000 pounds.  Wonder if it'd be a good substitute for the J-2X?

Where is BO testing their development engines?**  Their Kent, WA facility has a lot of interesting plumbing, tanks and some sort of earth berm in the back yard.  But I kind of doubt they'd be doing large engine tests in that semi-urban environment; I could probably hear the firings down the road here in Auburn...

**Ah, I see from the video that engine testing is being done in Texas and at Stennis; smaller engines were/are being done at Kent.
« Last Edit: 01/27/2013 06:22 am by Damon Hill »

Offline notsorandom

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #13 on: 01/27/2013 06:55 am »
There is also the third-fluid-cooled cycle.

Basically use the heat from the combustion chamber and nozzle to boil water, making steam that turns the turbines.
Interesting. Has that ever been done before or it it theoretical? It doesn't seem like it would be all that great with the extra mass of the water.

Offline Afrocle

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #14 on: 01/27/2013 05:30 pm »
I believe the RL60 development engine, which used separate expander turbines for fuel and oxidizer, was tested to 60,000 or slightly more.

LE-X uses a dual expander cycle, which apparently extracts more energy from the entire combustion chamber/throat/nozzle surface.  P/W in the past has said a dual expander could run to at least 300,000 pounds.  Wonder if it'd be a good substitute for the J-2X?

Interesting. I have been trying to follow the RL60 for 10 years, and I never heard that they actually tested it to 60,000-lbf thrust. What did they test at this thrust level? An entire engine? The pumps? The thrust chamber?

The LE-X is supposed to have 432-sec Isp versus 445-sec for J-2X so it could be a substitute if you are willing to take that 2% - 3% Isp hit.

Online Bob Shaw

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #15 on: 01/27/2013 05:53 pm »
There is also the third-fluid-cooled cycle.

Basically use the heat from the combustion chamber and nozzle to boil water, making steam that turns the turbines.
Interesting. Has that ever been done before or it it theoretical? It doesn't seem like it would be all that great with the extra mass of the water.

I seem to recall that the V2 graphite steering vanes were hollow, with water inside; water can absorb an enormous amount of energy, and being reasonably dense then a reservoir for 'proper' cooling/turbine power might be surprisingly small and light. It'd be a much nicer turbine working fluid to deal with than High-Test Peroxide, Hydrazine, or whatever.

Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #16 on: 01/28/2013 01:45 pm »
I support Blue Origin with my Amazon purchases.

That 25 million they received from the government is peanuts compared to the extra funding that SpaceX and Orbital received for "risk reduction" flights that didn't really help with the schedule at all.


Offline strangequark

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #17 on: 01/28/2013 11:20 pm »
I seem to recall that the V2 graphite steering vanes were hollow, with water inside; water can absorb an enormous amount of energy, and being reasonably dense then a reservoir for 'proper' cooling/turbine power might be surprisingly small and light. It'd be a much nicer turbine working fluid to deal with than High-Test Peroxide, Hydrazine, or whatever.

Hydrogen, which is the relevant fluid for this engine, is a killer heat sink. Heat capacity is 3-4 times that of water.

I think the XCOR third fluid expander is still closed though, so it wouldn't necessarily need a large amount of working fluid. I've never been very clear on what their ultimate heat sink is (fuel, oxidizer, environment?), and what kind of mass penalty the additional heat exchanger imposes.

Offline Joel

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #18 on: 01/29/2013 07:48 pm »
I don't know much about rocket engines so don't be too harsh on me, but shouldn't it also be possible to cool with the oxidiser in an expander engine? I mean, if there is no preburner, you won't get those corrosive hot oxygen-rich gases, right?

There should be much more cooling possible with the phase change in the liquid oxygen. According to wikipedia, the heat of vaporization for H2 and O2 are:

(H2) 0.904 kJ·mol−1
(O2) 6.82 kJ·mol−1

Or, equivalently:
(H2) 0.45 kJ·g−1
(O2) 0.21 kJ·g−1

With a (mass) mixing ratio of say 4.4, you should be able to cool twice as much if you use the oxydiser. Or three times more if you could cool with both the H2 and the O2. Or do I also need to take into account the work done on the turbine axis by the expanding gas? Anyway, is there a good reason not to use the oxygen in an expander?
« Last Edit: 01/29/2013 07:50 pm by Joel »

Offline strangequark

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Re: Blue Origin's BE-3 Engine
« Reply #19 on: 01/29/2013 08:08 pm »
I don't know much about rocket engines so don't be too harsh on me, but shouldn't it also be possible to cool with the oxidiser in an expander engine? I mean, if there is no preburner, you won't get those corrosive hot oxygen-rich gases, right?

There should be much more cooling possible with the phase change in the liquid oxygen. According to wikipedia, the heat of vaporization for H2 and O2 are:

(H2) 0.904 kJ·mol−1
(O2) 6.82 kJ·mol−1

Or, equivalently:
(H2) 0.45 kJ·g−1
(O2) 0.21 kJ·g−1

With a (mass) mixing ratio of say 4.4, you should be able to cool twice as much if you use the oxydiser. Or three times more if you could cool with both the H2 and the O2. Or do I also need to take into account the work done on the turbine axis by the expanding gas? Anyway, is there a good reason not to use the oxygen in an expander?

You generally want to avoid a phase change because the point of onset can be variable, and the convection coefficient changes drastically when you go from liquid to gas. What you want is a very predictable, low variability heat transfer situation to prevent local hot spots. Therefore, you operate at a high enough pressure that the fluid is supercritical (neither liquid or gas), and undergoes a smooth, continuous transition. The heat capacity of the fluid is more important than the heat of vaporization. You want it high because it means you can absorb lots of heat while keeping the fluid temp relatively low. A higher heat capacity also gives a higher convective heat transfer coefficient, which makes the fluid a better coolant..

Now, with that said, oxygen can be used, but it's not nearly as good at it. Cp is around 1 kJ/kg, versus 14 for hydrogen. There have been proposals using oxygen for cooling, and to provide some of the power, it's just that the fuel is usually the better choice.

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