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posted by martyb on Monday January 28 2019, @10:21AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Richard-Shelby-approves dept.

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

Related Stories

Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama 8 comments

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

NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines 19 comments

NASA could use an engine developed by Blue Origin instead of the four RL-10 engines currently used by the Space Launch System (SLS):

[One] problem with legacy hardware, built by traditional contractors such as Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is that it's expensive. And while NASA has not released per-flight estimates of the expendable SLS rocket's cost, conservative estimates peg it at $1.5 to $2.5 billion per launch. The cost is so high that it effectively precludes more than one to two SLS launches per year.

[...] [The RL-10] engines, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are also costly. (Ars understands that NASA paid an average of $17 million for each RL-10 engine for the maiden Exploration Upper Stage vehicle). So in October, to power the EUS, the space agency issued a request for information to the aerospace community for "a low cost drop-in replacement engine to minimize program cost." According to the document, the initial set of four engines would be needed in mid-2023 to prepare for the third flight of the SLS rocket, known as Exploration Mission-3.

Then, after an extension of the deadline for responses beyond mid-November, NASA revised the RFI on December 1. The revised document no longer seeks a "drop-in replacement" for the RL-10 engine, rather it asks for a "low-cost replacement engine." Although this seems like a subtle change, sources within the aerospace industry indicated to Ars that it is significant. According to NASA, it was done to increase the number of responses.

[...] That would probably include Blue Origin's BE-3U engine, which the company plans to use for its upper stage on the New Glenn heavy lift rocket. This is a modified version of the BE-3 engine that powers the New Shepard rocket, which has now flown successfully seven times. Blue Origin has previously marketed the BE-3U to Orbital ATK for its Next Generation Launch System, which is looking for an upper stage engine. A single BE-3U provides about 120,000 pounds of thrust, which exceeds the 100,000 pounds of thrust provided by four RL-10 engines.

Just cancel SLS and give that money to SpaceX, Blue Origin, or anybody willing to launch competitively.

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President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1


Original Submission

Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads 1 comment

Blue Origin's orbital rocket in the running to receive U.S. military investment

Blue Origin submitted a proposal late last year in what's expected to be a four-way competition for U.S. Air Force funding to support development of new orbital-class rockets, a further step taken by the Jeff Bezos-owned company to break into the military launch market, industry officials said. The proposal, confirmed by two space industry sources, puts Blue Origin up against SpaceX, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance, which could use Blue Origin's BE-4 engine to power its next-generation Vulcan rocket. It also sets up the New Glenn rocket, in development by Blue Origin, to be certified by the Air Force for national security missions.

Blue Origin received funding in an earlier phase of the Air Force's initiative to help companies develop new liquid-fueled U.S.-built booster engines in a bid to end the military's reliance on the Russian RD-180 powerplant, which drives the first stage of ULA's Atlas 5 rocket. The Air Force's money supported development of the BE-4 engine, which was designed with private money, and is still primarily a privately-funded program. The Pentagon funding announced in early 2016 for the BE-4 program was directly awarded to ULA, which routed the money to Blue Origin's engine program.

SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne also received Air Force funding in 2016 for propulsion work. SpaceX used the Air Force money for its methane-fueled Raptor engine, which will power the company's next-generation super-heavy BFR launcher. Orbital ATK is developing its own launcher for national security missions, which would use solid-fueled rocket motors for the initial boost into space, then use a hydrogen-fueled upper stage for orbital injection. Aerojet Rocketdyne's AR1 engine is a backup option for ULA's new Vulcan rocket.

Previously: U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $40.7 Million for Raptor Engine Development
Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks More U.S. Air Force Funding for AR1 Rocket Engine

Related: Jeff Bezos' Vision for Space: One Trillion Population in the Solar System
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s


Original Submission

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

Jeff Bezos Talks about Blue Origin at Yale Club Event 29 comments

Jeff Bezos just gave a private talk in New York. From utopian space colonies to dissing Elon Musk's Martian dream, here are the most notable things he said.

  • Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, gave a talk to a members-only event at the Yale Club in New York on Tuesday.
  • During the 30-minute lecture, Bezos said his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, would launch its first people into space aboard a New Shepard rocket in 2019.
  • Bezos also questioned the capabilities of a space tourism competitor, Virgin Galactic, and criticized the goal of Elon Musk and SpaceX to settle Mars with humans.
  • Ultimately, Bezos said he wants Blue Origin to enable a space-faring civilization where "a Mark Zuckerberg of space" and "1,000 Mozarts and 1,000 Einsteins" can flourish.
  • Bezos advised the crowd to hold a powerful, personal long-term vision, but to devote "the vast majority of your energy and attention" on shorter-term activities and those ranging up to 2- or 3-year timeframes.

[...] Bezos: I don't think we'll live on planets, by the way. I think we'll live in giant O'Neal[sic]-style space colonies. Gerard O'Neil, decades ago, came up with this idea. He asked his physics students at Princeton a very simple question, but a very unusual one, which is: Is a planetary surface the right place for humanity to expand in the solar system? And after doing a lot of work, they came back and decided the answer was "no." There's a fascinating interview with Isaac Asimov, Gerard O'Neill, and their interviewer that you can find on YouTube from many decades ago. And to Asimov, the interviewer says, "Why do you think we're so focused, then, on expanding onto other planetary surfaces?" And Asimov says, "That's simple. We grew up on a planet, we're planet chauvinists."

Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat 1 comment

Telesat signs New Glenn multi-launch agreement with Blue Origin for LEO missions

Canadian fleet operator Telesat has agreed to launch satellites for its future low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation on multiple New Glenn missions, Blue Origin announced Jan. 31.

The agreement, for an unspecified number of launches and satellites, makes Telesat the fifth customer to sign up to use the reusable launcher, which is slated for a maiden flight in 2021.

"Blue Origin's powerful New Glenn rocket is a disruptive force in the launch services market which, in turn, will help Telesat disrupt the economics and performance of global broadband connectivity," Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg said in a news release.

Blue Origin already has eight other New Glenn missions in backlog: one each for Paris-based Eutelsat, Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan and Thai startup Mu Space, plus five launches for low-Earth-orbit megaconstellation company OneWeb.

SpaceX's Starlink constellation would compete with Telesat's low Earth orbit broadband offering. Perhaps that factored into the choice of Blue Origin as launch provider.

New Glenn rocket.

Related: Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines
The Military Chooses Which Rockets It Wants Built for the Next Decade
Blue Origin Starts Construction of Rocket Engine Factory in Alabama


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

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @01:43PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @01:43PM (#792983)

    Alabamans can't do skilled labor. They can't even play football very well.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @01:59PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @01:59PM (#792989)

      Aside from two minor data points (X and SC), history generally says otherwise.

      Wouldn't bet against 'em if they get serious.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @07:30PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @07:30PM (#793179)

      They have the best team money can buy.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @02:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 28 2019, @02:00PM (#792990)

    If you have not yet seen the comparisons:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3urRWGt2s6k [youtube.com]

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bob_super on Monday January 28 2019, @05:22PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Monday January 28 2019, @05:22PM (#793098)

    It's not like they could have built it anywhere else, and still hoped to get federal contracts... Thank you, Senator Porkmeister !

  • (Score: 2) by physicsmajor on Monday January 28 2019, @09:26PM

    by physicsmajor (1471) on Monday January 28 2019, @09:26PM (#793227)

    In under three years they are going to be flying this, and they just now announce they are starting construction on the factory where it'll be made? That seems crazy.

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