Blue Origin, the spaceflight company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, revealed that its lunar-landing engine, the BE-7, passed its fourth test successfully on Friday.
Blue Origin is in the running to help operate NASA's next mission to the moon, Artemis 3, which aims to make history with the first woman to walk on the moon, according to NASA.
"This is the engine that will take the first woman to the surface of the Moon," Bezos wrote Friday in an Instagram post, which showed the BE-7 rocket engine firing up.
A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos)
But Bezos' Blue Origin isn't the only space company vying to win NASA's favor. Two other companies — Dynetics and SpaceX, which is owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk — are also competing for the honor.
In May, NASA awarded the three companies 10 months and a total of $967 million to produce initial designs for a human-landing system for the Artemis 3 mission, which plans on landing on the moon in 2024.
Blue Origin's BE-7 engine is designed for Blue Origin's "Blue Moon" lunar lander, which the company unveiled in 2019. The BE-7 engine is designed to run on liquid oxygen and hydrogen, which can be found on the moon's surface in the form of lunar ice, according to Blue Origin. In addition, the engine has 10,000 lbf in thrust, which can throttle down to 2,000 lbf to touch down on the moon softly, according to Blue Origin.
The engine has been tested multiple times at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. This time, the engine fired for about 20 seconds, bringing up the total amount of hot-fire run time to about 20 minutes.
In addition to a lunar landing system, Blue Origin is also working on rocket systems. In recent years, the company has mostly focused on a suborbital system called the New Shepard, a reusable rocket equipped to take six tourists into space at a time.
Yet Blue Origin has yet to fly a New Glenn rocket, which is designed to send payloads to orbit, in the 20 years since Bezos started the company. Meanwhile, competitor SpaceX has flown more than 100 missions into orbit.
Blue Origin hired Terry Benedict as COO in 2018 to help the company move toward orbit, but he left the company this week "to pursue other opportunities," CNBC reported Wednesday.