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Forum:Commercial Space - Military Space
Topic:Blue Origin developing BE-4 rocket engine
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Two BE-4s would be used on the Vulcan booster rocket. The BE-4 will also power Blue Origin's New Glenn reusable launch system with seven BE-4s on the reusable first stage and a vacuum-optimized BE-4U on New Glenn's second stage. Blue Origin awaits the final public approval processes of the local package by the City and County governments during their respective July meetings.

Using the latest design and manufacturing techniques, the BE-4 is made for both commercial and government missions. The BE-4 uses oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 lb. of thrust. Development of the BE-4 began in 2011. Testing of the BE-4 is currently underway.

"Alabama is a great state for aerospace manufacturing and we are proud to produce America's next rocket engine right here in Rocket City," said Robert Meyerson, President of Blue Origin. "The area's skilled workforce and leading role in rocket propulsion development make Huntsville the ideal location for our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility."

Blue Origin will employ up to 342 people in this new facility. The company will make approximately $200 million in capital investment in the state.

"This announcement today is excellent news for our state. I am pleased to see Blue Origin investing in Alabama, and I look forward to working with them and other businesses to continue boosting economic development opportunities," commended U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.

The announcement took place at the historic Davidson Center for Space Exploration under the Saturn V rocket, a nod to the community's aerospace heritage. Blue Origin builds on that aerospace heritage and positions the Huntsville/Madison County community in the commercial space industry.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said of the announcement, "We are excited to welcome Blue Origin to Alabama. I must commend founder Jeff Bezos and company President Robert Meyerson for their vision to create this innovative company, and for choosing to make Alabama its home sweet home! Because of this investment, more Alabamians can provide a better living for their families, and it helps cement Alabama as the preferred destination for the aerospace industry."

Many economic development partners contributed to the effort to successfully recruit Blue Origin to the state. These partners include the Governor's office, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the City of Huntsville, Madison County, and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.

"Blue Origin's decision to locate its BE-4 engine manufacturing center in Huntsville reflects the deep and longstanding capabilities in the city that became the cradle of the nation's rocket program," said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. "Huntsville is a hub of innovation in every facet of aerospace, making it the perfect home for this Blue Origin facility."​

Blue Origin chose Huntsville, Alabama for this project because of the high-tech aerospace manufacturing workforce and ecosystem, including NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, nearly 300 private aerospace and defense contractors, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, number 14th in NASA research funding in the nation.

"Huntsville is proud to be the nation's propulsion center of excellence, and we couldn't ask for a better partner than Blue Origin to join our team. When you look at NASA's visionary work at the Marshall Space Flight Center, the talent and capacity of Huntsville's space industry partners, and our expertise in research and development, engineering, and manufacturing, Blue Origin is joining a truly remarkable environment," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

"Today's announcement ensures that our community will continue to be at the center of the world's rocket propulsion development. Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin will build on the legacy of the German rocket team and the Marshall Space Flight Center to power the growing commercial rocket business that will be a critical part of our nation's future space program," stated Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong.

In support of Blue Origin, the City of Huntsville, City of Madison, and Madison County have provided funding for their three school systems to launch an experiment on a Blue Origin rocket in Summer 2018. The school systems will determine how to select teams, and then they will work with the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and Dream Up, an organization that supports space-based learning, to design and develop their payload.

"Blue Origin reinforces our regions' place as the Rocket City, and a center of excellence for rocket propulsion. Blue Origin's presence will have a positive impact on our State, our region and our community," said Chip Cherry, President and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. "This is an important development for Cummings Research Park's next era of expansion and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Blue Origin."

Robert PearlmanBlue Origin on Twitter:
First hotfire of our BE-4 engine is a success.
Robert PearlmanBlue Origin on Twitter:
Latest BE-4 engine test footage where we exceeded our Isp [specific impulse] targets. We continue to exercise the deep throttling of our full scale 550,000 lbf BE-4, the reusability of our hydrostatic pump bearings and our stable start/stop cycles. More to follow from ongoing tests.
Robert PearlmanBlue Origin release
Blue Origin Breaks Ground on Huntsville Engine Production Facility

Today we broke ground on the construction of a world-class rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, Alabama, extending the city's rich legacy in liquid rocket engines.

Above: Pictured left to right: Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce; Kim Lewis, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber 2019 Board Chair; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Alabama Governor Kay Ivey; United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno; Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith; Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong; U.S. Senator Doug Jones; U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks; Clayco CEO Bob Clark.

Here are excerpts from today's groundbreaking ceremony given by Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith:

It's a great day here in Rocket City. Thanks to the votes of confidence from United Launch Alliance, from the Air Force for national security missions, and from Huntsville and the state of Alabama, we are breaking ground on a facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.

Last September, United Launch Alliance (ULA) selected our BE-4 engine to power the Vulcan rocket. Then in October, both our New Glenn launch vehicle and Vulcan were selected by the United States Air Force in its Launch Services Agreement contract. This means two out of the three major launch systems flying national security space missions will be powered by engines produced in our Huntsville facility.

New Glenn will be a competitive launch vehicle that can serve all the needs of the civil, commercial and national security space markets for years to come.

We're excited to provide safe, reliable access to space and – in the case of United Launch Alliance – end the dependency our nation has on using Russian RD-180 engines for critical national security launches.

The BE-4 is an incredibly sophisticated and powerful engine. It will be a true marvel of engineering when we complete its development later this year and it is currently rocking our test stands out in West Texas. Each ULA Vulcan first stage will have two of these BE-4 engines and they will be integrated into the vehicle just across the river at their Decatur facility. Seven BE-4s, with a combined thrust of nearly 4 million pounds, will also power the fully reusable first stage of Blue Origin's New Glenn launch system.

We'll also be building our BE-3U engine in Huntsville. It's an upper-stage variant of our BE-3 liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen engine that we're already flying on New Shepard. It's the first completely new liquid hydrogen engine developed for production in the United States in more than a decade and New Shepard is giving us hours of experience operating it.

This project has been in the works for several years and we're thankful to everyone who made it happen.

Thanks to Governor Kay Ivey, Senator Richard Shelby, Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Commission Chairman Dale Strong, and the entire Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce for their commitment to bringing us to northern Alabama and making this day possible.

We'd also like to recognize Senator Doug Jones, Representative Mo Brooks, and Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer for their continued support.

This engine production facility demonstrates our commitment to the state of Alabama. It also demonstrates our confidence that the highly-skilled workforce, deep aerospace history and strong business climate in Huntsville will play a critical role in advancing our vision of millions of people living and working in space.

Additionally, we are in final negotiations with Marshall Space Flight Center to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the Space Shuttle main engines. Through this agreement, we'll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history.

When we open our doors in Huntsville in March 2020, we will add more than 300 jobs to the local economy, invest over $200 million in the facility and ensure a new generation of engines will rumble to life and send us into the heavens.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA, Blue Origin Agreement Signals Rocketing Growth of Commercial Space

Officials from NASA and the private space company Blue Origin have signed an agreement that grants the company use of a historic test stand as the agency focuses on returning to the Moon and on to Mars, and America's commercial space industry continues to grow.

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670, at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of their BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin's New Glenn launch vehicle – both being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

"This test stand once helped power NASA's first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space," said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. "Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector."

Constructed in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Later, it was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility has been inactive since 1998.

"We're excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners," said Marshall Center Director Jody Singer. "This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built."

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team was commissioned to begin exploring the proposed partnership.

"I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines," said Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin. "Through this agreement, we'll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville."

Under the agreement, Blue Origin will pay for the investments it makes to prepare the test stand for use, as well as any direct costs NASA incurs as a result of Blue Origin use of the stand, maximizing the value derived from taxpayer investment in government facilities.

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