Jeff Bezos' Startup Blue Origin Just Beat This Major Company For A Contract – Is SpaceX Next?

Friday, 28 September 2018 - 12:18PM
Space
Friday, 28 September 2018 - 12:18PM
Jeff Bezos' Startup Blue Origin Just Beat This Major Company For A Contract – Is SpaceX Next?
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Pixabay Composite/Public Domain
On Thursday, the United Launch Alliance announced a partnership with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' company Blue Origin following an engine design competition for ULA's Vulcan Centaur rocket project. Blue Origin's BE-4 beat out the AR1 system from Aerojet Rocketdyne for the opportunity to power the rocket, which is expected to launch for the first time in 2020.

"We are very glad to have our BE-4 engine selected by United Launch Alliance," Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement. "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. We can't thank Tory Bruno and the entire United Launch Alliance team enough for entrusting our engine to powering the Vulcan rocket's first stage." 



The BE-4 engine uses liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen to produce 550,000 lbs of thrust and, according to Defense News, there will be two of them on Vulcan Centaur for her debut. Some experts say that the choice is not a surprise given that Bruno had previously shown his preference for BE-4 over the more "logical" AR1, but it is a big deal for Bezos and his much younger company (Aerojet Rocketdyne was founded in 1942). "The fact that [Blue Origin] was able to defeat this established, storied company like Aerojet...it's a major victory for a startup," Forecast International space analyst Bill Osgrove told CNN.

BE-4 is expected to be the cheaper option, which was no doubt a major selling point for ULA. "Vulcan Centaur will revolutionize spaceflight and provide affordable, reliable access to space for our current and future customers," Tory Bruno said in the same statement. "We are well on our way to the introduction of Vulcan Centaur – the future of U.S. rocket manufacturing. With state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing techniques, this rocket is designed specifically for low recurring cost."

"ULA has chosen the best systems available to create the Vulcan Centaur," Bruno later added. "These engines and components will ensure ULA continues to lead the way in space exploration, maintain our record of success and remain America's launch vehicle for our nation's most vital missions."
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