Jeff Bezos space project lands big rocket partnership

James Marshall
September 28, 2018

Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin space company will reportedly provide the engines for the Vulcan, a new rocket being built by the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance.

Amazon.com and Blue Origin founder Jeffrey P. Bezos speaks at the Air Force Association's Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Oxon Hill, Md., on September 19.

Ultimately, it seems Blue Origin beat Aerojet Rocketdyne for the contract.

The company plans to use the same engines to power its own launcher, called New Glenn, which is now under development. That engine now provides the main power for ULA's legacy workhorse, Atlas V, which the Vulcan will eventually replace.

The deal marks a significant partnership between the stalwarts in the national security launch business and Blue Origin, the upstart rocket company founded by Amazon.com chief Jeffrey P. Bezos.

The Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine is put through a test
The Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine is put through a test

The terms of the contract were not disclosed, but engines represent a major portion of the cost of a rocket.

The BE-4 is our fourth-generation liquid rocket engine, made to take us into orbit and beyond.

ULA said in announcing the contract award that Vulcan was on track for an initial flight in mid-2020, though industry sources expect that deadline to be extended. This month, Bezos said he'd be spending "just over a billion dollars" on the New Glenn program the next year. New Glenn will also be powered by Blue Origin's BE-4 engine and eventually compete with ULA's Vulcan, raising questions about the clarity of Bezos' strategy.

Steven Warren, a spokesman for Aerojet Rocketdyne, said that the company would continue to develop its AR1 engine and that it was confident in its progress and performance.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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