Benefits of U.S. Natural Gas are Out of This World
Posted February 14, 2020
We’ve talked at length about the domestic benefits of natural gas – for families, communities, the environment and national security, just to name a few – but today we’re looking beyond the emissions reductions, economic growth and energy resiliency afforded by this abundant domestic resource. More specifically … to infinity and beyond!
NASA recently unveiled 16 scientific experiments and technology demonstrations that will hitch a ride to the moon in July 2021, half of which will be launched on ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket clad with Jeff Bezos’ BE-4 rocket engines – fueled with liquefied natural gas (LNG).
These. Things. Are. Awesome.
Image credit: Blue Origin
Called “the most powerful LNG fueled rocket engine ever developed,” BE-4 is capable of producing 2,400 kN (550,000 lbf) thrust with deep throttle capability. Each Vulcan Centaur rocket, equipped with a pair of BE-4 engines as well as a booster and supplemental engines, will produce more than a million pounds of thrust that allows it to carry more than 6,000 pounds at speeds topping 22,000 miles per hour.
To put that in context, this is equivalent to the power generated by 13 Hoover Dams, carrying the weight of eight horses, and traveling at speeds 15 times faster than a speeding bullet.
Central to the engine’s efficiency is its use of LNG which, unlike other rocket fuels, can be used to pressurize a rocket’s propellant tanks. From Blue Origin:
“We chose LNG because it is highly efficient, low cost and widely available. Unlike kerosene, LNG can be used to self-pressurize its tank. Known as autogenous repressurization, this eliminates the need for costly and complex systems that draw on Earth’s scarce helium reserves. LNG also possesses clean combustion characteristics even at low throttle, simplifying engine reuse compared to kerosene fuels.”
It's worth noting that the selection by ULA of the American-made BE-4 engines for the Vulcan Centaur means the company will no longer need to use the Russian-made RD-180 engine – another “win” for U.S. natural gas in reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign resources.
“By making launch more affordable, Vulcan Centaur opens up new opportunities for space capabilities, offering unprecedented flexibility in a single system. From low-Earth orbit to Pluto, the single-core Vulcan Centaur does it all.”
About The Author
Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in London, and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.
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