The U.S. Air Force has committed $109 million in funding to advance development of new rockets designed by United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman, leaving out SpaceX in a government investment round that will lead to the military’s selection of two long-term launch providers in late 2019 or 2020.
Ending months of speculation, Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos, has won a milestone contract to provide first-stage rocket engines for a powerful new booster being designed by United Launch Alliance to replace its current fleet of Atlas and Delta launchers, the companies announced Thursday.
SpaceX and its visionary founder Elon Musk win the lion’s share of public attention in the commercial rocket arena, with dramatic, increasingly routine booster landings and spectacular stunts like the launch of Musk’s Tesla Roadster on the maiden flight of the company’s new Falcon Heavy rocket last month.
Blue Origin has conducted the first hotfire test of its BE-4 rocket engine in West Texas, a powerplant fueled by liquified natural gas and liquid oxygen that will power the company’s heavy-lift New Glenn rocket and perhaps United Launch Alliance’s next-generation Vulcan launcher, officials announced Thursday.
Blue Origin said Sunday that it lost a set of powerpack hardware for its BE-4 engine during a ground test mishap, dealing at least a minor setback to the development of a powerful U.S.-made propulsion system that United Launch Alliance says is the leading candidate to power the first stage of its next-generation Vulcan rocket.
A full-scale BE-4 engine developed by Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, is installed on a test stand in West Texas for a series of hotfire tests that United Launch Alliance will closely examine before settling on the reusable methane-fueled engine for its new-generation Vulcan rocket.