Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Blue Origin Rolls Out a Stainless Tank To Test, Too

A friend here near the Space Center emailed a link to Ars Technica with a story that at launch complex 36 on the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Blue Origin has rolled out a stainless steel test tank as part of what they're calling Project Jarvis.  Any similarity between this and Tony Stark's J.A.R.V.I.S. AI that he talks to through all the Iron Man movies is purely coincidental and unintentional.  At least on my part.  

On Tuesday, Blue Origin used a modular transport to roll its first stainless steel test tank to Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This tank is part of the company's efforts—under the codename "Project Jarvis"—to develop a fully reusable upper stage for Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket.

Ars revealed the existence of this effort last month, and we are now publishing the first photos of the tank prototype. A source at Blue Origin said this tank could start to undergo a series of tests to determine its strength and ability to hold pressurized propellants as soon as next month.

Long time Texas tank watchers will see a lot in this picture that's familiar.  

Photo credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars Technica

Stainless steel tank, like SpaceX has gone to for Starship and Super Heavy?  Yup.  Rapid build, test, break, build again, test again?  You got it. 

Project Jarvis encompasses the tank program, which is intended to rapidly prototype a propellant tank to withstand the rigors of multiple launches and re-entries. The company's engineers are studying the use of stainless steel as a material for these tanks, as SpaceX has chosen to do with its Starship booster and upper stage. Stainless steel is cheaper and better able to withstand atmospheric heating during re-entry, but it's about five times heavier than composites.

In an effort to move quickly and test whether SpaceX's iterative design philosophy can be mimicked, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has empowered the engineers leading Project Jarvis to innovate in an environment unfettered by rigorous management and paperwork processes. This has led to the rapid development of the tank rolled to Launch Complex 36 on Tuesday.

Ars Technica's space correspondent, Eric Berger, says that his sources inside the company said the construction of this test tank has proceeded much more rapidly than other programs at Blue Origin, which may validate Bezos' experiment with rapid, iterative development.  They say it's an effort to live up their motto.  

"Jeff wants to heavily emphasize the ferociter in our motto now," one source said of Blue Origin's Gradatim Ferociter motto, which means step by step, ferociously.

For the last several years, I don't think anyone would argue that ferociter was even a tiny part of Blue's character.  

EDIT 8/26/21 9:20 AM EDT to add:  About the time I was posting this, SpaceX was wrapping up testing their Ground Support Equipment test tank.  It appeared successful, nothing popped, but they haven't officially commented.  As usual. 

Unless something has changed radically, we will only know about Blue Origin's tests in some sort of statement as there is no way to watch the tests like we can watch SpaceX's tests.




  1. HAH!

    More like "Slowly I Turned, Step-By-Step....."

  2. Well, well, well. Bezos is a self-promoting copycat whose company has produced bupkis and it's engineering staff is bailing to go work at... SpaceX and Rocketlabs.

    Stainless steel... Ha. Hahaha.

    Musk has shaken up the world, hasn't he? Gee, we need to make one big arsed rocket and make it reusable. Legacy Aerospace says to make it as light as possible and make it out of exotic materials. Musk kicks the dominant paradigm in the nuts and makes it out of stainless.

    And now Bezos follows, and supposedly the ChiComs, and probably the Russians and Indians too.

  3. Musk's Tweet response was priceless. Double ROFL emoji's.
    Probably a good idea to invest in stainless manufacturing as widely as possible. At least until they bring back their first payload of Unobtanium from Mars.