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posted by martyb on Thursday June 29 2017, @02:48AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the job-growth-in-3...2...1... dept.

Today, private spaceflight venture Blue Origin announced its plans to manufacture the company's new rocket engine, the BE-4, at a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama. It's an interesting move for the company, which has been mostly developing the engine at its headquarters in Kent, Washington, and testing the hardware in Texas. But the benefits for Blue Origin are both practical and political.

On the surface, it's a seemingly innocuous decision meant to capitalize on Huntsville's decades-long history of rocket development. The city is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was developed and where NASA's future massive deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, will also be worked on. Plus, many private space contractors are based in Huntsville, making spaceflight a key part of the city's economy and a huge jobs creator. It's why Huntsville has been nicknamed Rocket City.

"Alabama is a great state for aerospace manufacturing and we are proud to produce America's next rocket engine right here in Rocket City," Robert Meyerson, president of Blue Origin, said in a statement.

[...] Of course, Blue Origin probably also had some nice economic incentives to move to the state that factored into the decision. And the company will definitely have a good support system there. Blue Origin's move to Huntsville is supposed to generate 342 jobs at the new facility, located in Cummings Research Park, with salaries averaging $75,000. And given the city's history, Blue Origin should have no problem finding aerospace experts in the area. Phil Larson, a former science advisor to the Obama administration and a former SpaceX spokesperson, pointed out that SpaceX, in part, moved to Los Angeles because it had the largest concentration of aerospace engineers in the country at the time. "Alabama has that same sort of strong technical work force," he tells The Verge.

Source: The Verge


Original Submission

Related Stories

Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines 5 comments

Jeff Bezos's rocket company beats out spaceflight veteran for engine contract

Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket company just scored a major contract. His company's BE-4 engines will power United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur, a new suite of rockets that will aim to better compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX on price. Its first launch is slated for 2020. The contract award with ULA marks a high-profile vote of confidence for Bezos's space startup.

"We are very glad to have our BE-4 engine selected by United Launch Alliance. United Launch Alliance is the premier launch service provider for national security missions, and we're thrilled to be part of their team and that mission," Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement announcing the award on Thursday.

[...] Blue Origin's win does not come as a huge surprise. The BE-4 is further along in development than the comparable Aerojet engine, dubbed the AR1, and is expected to be less expensive to make. [ULA CEO Tory] Bruno previously expressed his preference for Blue's BE-4 over Aerojet's AR1.

BE-4.

Also at Ars Technica.

Related: Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks More U.S. Air Force Funding for AR1 Rocket Engine
SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s
Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads


Original Submission

Blue Origin Completes Construction of Rocket Engine Factory in Alabama 6 comments

Blue Origin opens rocket engine factory

Blue Origin formally opened a factory Feb. 17 that the company plans to use to produce engines both for its vehicles and for United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the completion of a 350,000-square-foot factory [in Huntsville, Alabama] that will produce BE-4 and BE-3U engines. The factory, built in a little more than a year, will host more than 300 employees and produce up to 42 engines a year.

[...] While the building is complete, Blue Origin is not yet ready to start producing engines there. Employees will start moving into the factory this week, company officials said, with tooling and other equipment to start arriving in the coming weeks. The factory should be ready to start building BE-4 engines this summer, starting with a "site certification" engine that will be fired at both at Blue Origin's West Texas test site and a test stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center that the company is refurbishing.

Blue Origin is currently building BE-4 engines at its headquarters in Kent, Washington. That work includes a series of engines used in testing and two "flight readiness" engines that Smith said in his remarks will be delivered to United Launch Alliance in May for integration on that company's Vulcan rocket for testing. The first engines intended for flight will also be produced there.

The company plans to transition production over a couple of years from Kent to Huntsville. Once the BE-4 production line is stabilized, Huntsville staff will be trained in Kent and then return to ramp up engine production in Huntsville. Ultimately the factory will be able to produce 42 engines a year, split roughly evenly between the BE-4 and the BE-3U engine that will power the upper stage of New Glenn. The company expects to take two to three years to reach that production rate.

SpaceX is planning to return to the Port of Los Angeles after previously abandoning plans for a Starship factory there.

Previously: Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines
Blue Origin Starts Construction of Rocket Engine Factory in Alabama


Original Submission

Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks More U.S. Air Force Funding for AR1 Rocket Engine 7 comments

Aerojet Rocketdyne wants the U.S. Air Force to contribute more funding for the development of its AR1 rocket engine. But that may be a hard sell when the mostly privately funded BE-4 from Blue Origin is close to being ready to fly:

In recent years, Aerojet has sought funding from the US Air Force to design and build the AR1, which has approximately 20 percent more thrust than a space shuttle main engine. The Air Force, in turn, has pledged as much as $536 million in development costs provided that Aerojet puts its own skin in the game—about one-third of research and development expenses.

According to a new report in Space News, Aerojet is now saying that even this modest investment is too much, and the company is seeking to reduce its share of the development costs from one-third to one-sixth. "As we look to the next phase of this contract, we are working with the Air Force on a smart and equitable cost-share," Aerojet spokesman Steve Warren told the publication. "We are committed to delivering an engine in 2019."

According to the report, the Air Force is not inclined to renegotiate the agreement. The Air Force's hesitation to increase its investment is probably because the military may not really need the AR1 rocket engine any more due to the emergence of Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Related: Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?


Original Submission

Blue Origin Starts Construction of Rocket Engine Factory in Alabama 6 comments

Blue Origin starts building the factory for New Glenn's engines

Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket just became more tangible. The company has officially started construction on a factory in Huntsville, Alabama that will produce the BE-4 engines powering both New Glenn and United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur. It'll also make the BE-3U engines used for New Glenn's second stage. While it's not clear when the factory will start making rockets, Blue Origin expects to complete development later in 2019.

Both New Glenn and Vulcan Centaur are expected to launch in 2021.

BE-4.

Previously: Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Nerdfest on Thursday June 29 2017, @04:05AM (6 children)

    by Nerdfest (80) on Thursday June 29 2017, @04:05AM (#532806)

    It's not really surprising. Alabama has long been popular with the science crowd. They even mention it in the theme song for the "Big Bang Theory":

    Our whole universe was in a hot dense state

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Azuma Hazuki on Thursday June 29 2017, @04:44AM (4 children)

      by Azuma Hazuki (5086) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 29 2017, @04:44AM (#532815) Journal

      More to the point, everyone's already so inbred and mutated that a leak of some of those horrible rocket fuels won't make much of a difference.

      --
      I am "that girl" your mother warned you about...
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @06:44AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @06:44AM (#532847)

        Hey - I have a lot of kinfolk in Alabama! All farmers. God fearing folks.

        A lot of 'em are way too superstitious though, and often mis-led by folks with a suit and microphone. If it isn't beggaring preacher-men, its snake oil salesmen. One followed by the other. Constantly.

        Get on the good side of them, and they will take care of you, get on their bad side and they will run you out of town.

        A BMW doesn't mean a thing to them, however you better know your red tractors from the green ones.

        • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @11:25AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @11:25AM (#532906)

          A BMW doesn't mean a thing to them, however you better know your red tractors from the green ones.

          The Matrix would have been very different if it had been based in Alamaba. Just swap "Red Tractor" for "Red Pill" and "Green Tractor" for "Blue Pill".

          • (Score: 2) by KGIII on Thursday June 29 2017, @10:29PM

            by KGIII (5261) on Thursday June 29 2017, @10:29PM (#533135) Journal

            I took the road less traveled by. I have an L6060. It is orange.

            --
            "So long and thanks for all the fish."
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @10:56AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 29 2017, @10:56AM (#532901)

        [singing]

        I hope Azuma Hazuki will remember
        a southern man don't need him around anyhow.
        Sweet home Alabama...

    • (Score: 1) by mayo2y on Thursday June 29 2017, @01:12PM

      by mayo2y (6520) on Thursday June 29 2017, @01:12PM (#532937)

      There are a lot of Russian and Eastern European science and computer engineering students there. Many stay after their schooling is complete. It's not your northern fantasy of a barbaric, redneck, hick state.

  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Thursday June 29 2017, @11:27AM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 29 2017, @11:27AM (#532907)

    I lived in Huntsville in the 90s for a summer courtesy of uncle sam, and its a pretty nice place. It has a Roman Empire feel of PHDs and engineers and "civilization" in general surrounded by barbarians. I was attending a couple on base classes. The weird thing about Hunstville was no one on base was from Huntsville.

    As for the locals you'd meet off base at the mall, the odds were not 75:25 that they've got a PHD like on base. The male locals are ridiculously nice people and the young female locals were ridiculously hot. They serve grits at breakfast which are a kind of natural less artifically flavored malto-meal and they're pretty good. They don't seem to have a unique food culture (like New Orleans, or KC-style BBQ, or Wisconsin cheeses and beers) unless you count sweetened iced tea with so much dissolved sucrose it resembles straight corn syrup.

    This is long before 9/11 so base security was layered in depth. Most of the base, such as the on base Burger King or the PX was essentially unguarded although there were areas I was at, inside the base, surrounded by barbed wire with 24x7 guards. For example they had a shuttle bus going from barracks and on base destinations right to off base destinations like the mall, and you could take a date home with you for example. Now with eternal war until empire collapse, I would imagine the base gates are actually armed, etc.

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