Blue Origin, the spaceflight company started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will manufacture its BE-4 engine in a state-of-the art production facility to be built in Huntsville, AL. Blue Origin will invest approximately $200 million in the project, and employ up to 342 people in Alabama’s 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,” 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.”
The new facility will be in Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second-largest research park, and construction will begin once an engine production contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA) is awarded. If selected for the project, the BE-4 will power ULA’s Vulcan rocket. The production of this engine would end the nation’s dependence on Russia for access to space for critical national security space systems.
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 the second stage. The final public approval processes of the local package by the city and county governments are scheduled to take place during 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 pounds of thrust. Development of the BE-4 began in 2011. Testing of the BE-4 is currently under way.
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 all worked together to successfully recruit Blue Origin to the state as part of what was called “Project Eagle.”
“We are excited to welcome Blue Origin to Alabama,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “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 men and women can provide a better living for their families, and it helps cement Alabama as the preferred destination for the aerospace industry.”
“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 said it chose Huntsville 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,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “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.”
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 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.”
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