In 1997, as part of a space privatization trend encouraged by the federal government, Mr. Beal started Beal Aerospace to build rockets with the goal of placing communications satellites in orbit. Operating with more than 200 employees from a 163,000-square-foot space in Frisco, TX, Beal Aerospace focused on a three-stage, 200-foot-tall rocket. Powered by hydrogen peroxide and kerosene, the engine eliminated the need for a separate ignition system because, as the hydrogen peroxide oxidized, it ignited the kerosene.
On March 4, 2000, Beal Aerospace tested the BA-810 Stage 2 engine which was the largest liquid rocket engine built since NASA's Apollo Saturn V rocket of the 1960s. The 810,000-pound vacuum thrust hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engine made a 21-second firing at the company's engine test facility in McGregor, Texas.
Here are two video clips of that successful test:
WFAA-TV, Channel 8 Dallas-Ft. Worth (ABC)
Used with permission of WFAA
NBC 5, KXAS-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth
Used with permission of KXAS
In light of competition from NASA, Mr. Beal closed the company and ceased operations on Oct. 23, 2000, citing the difficulty a private company faced in competing with the governmental subsidies of NASA.
Following the closure, it was reported that “Mr. Beal told a Senate subcommittee last year that private-sector launch systems would be at risk if the government decided to subsidize similar systems by government contractors. Congress approved NASA’s Space Launch Initiative last week, allocating an initial $290 million for it . . . . ‘That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ Mr. Beal said.” (Source: The Dallas Morning News, October 24, 2000)
In a later story in 2003, it was reported that “[NASA] established the Space Launch Initiative to retool ideas for shuttle replacement and budgeted nearly $5 billion over five years to come up with new ideas. . . . But that program was canceled in April because of budget overruns on the space station. . . . Last fall, [NASA] shifted much of the Space Launch Initiative money to other programs and ordered a rethinking of the whole concept. (Source: The Dallas Morning News, February 5, 2003)
Also, in 2010, the connection between Beal Aerospace and NASA was reported again, saying that “[Beal Aerospace] folded later in 2000, with Beal saying it couldn’t compete with NASA’s ‘subsidized launch systems.’ . . . . Since then, NASA has changed course and is now aiming to support private-sector companies [emphasis added] . . . .” (Source: The Dallas Morning News, February 21, 2010)