Q. What exactly does this partnership entail?
A. ULA and Blue Origin have established a long-term partnership and teaming arrangement. The initial purpose is to jointly fund the development of an engine compatible with ULA’s future launch vehicle needs, as well as future Blue Origin space systems. Other joint projects are also being considered.
Q. Does the BE-4 replace the RD-180 engine that is imported through RD AMROSS?
A. The BE-4 is not a direct replacement for the RD-180 that powers ULA’s Atlas V rocket, however two BE-4s are expected to provide the engine thrust for the next generation ULA vehicles. The details related to ULA’s next generation vehicles – which will maintain the key heritage components of ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets that provide world class mission assurance and reliability – will be announced at a later date.
Q. Who will be able to use the rocket engine? Will you sell it to competitors or companies overseas?
A. We anticipate the BE-4 to be a huge success for both ULA and Blue Origin. After development and production, Blue will make the engine commercially available to other companies.
Q. How much will the new engine cost to build?
A. The cost is proprietary and we are not able to publicly disclose.
Q. Will this increase costs to the government or any new customers?
A. No, in fact, the production of this new engine will cut costs for our customers.
Q. How did this new partnership come about?
A. ULA and Blue Origin have had a long-term relationship. We first began to work together in the mid-2000s and then more formally as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev) in 2009.
Q. What experience does Blue Origin have in building rocket engines?
A. Blue is focused on developing vehicles and technologies to lower the cost and increase the safety of spaceflight. The BE-4 is the fourth and largest engine for Blue. The BE-3 hydrogen engine is fully developed and will power Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.
Q. How many jobs will it create and in what state/s?
A. Blue Origin currently has more than 350 employees at its facilities in Kent, Washington and its testing site in West Texas, while ULA has more than 3,500 employees in Colorado, Alabama, Florida, California and Texas. At this time, the location of the new operation has not yet been determined and we will be looking at a variety of states to perform the manufacturing activities.
Q. Does this have any impact on the recent $11 billion Block Buy by the U.S. Air Force for launch capabilities?
A. This teaming arrangement will not have any impact on the current block buy as it will support future vehicles and contracts, not the existing contract. However, in the future, we anticipate that this new domestic engine will be able to further reduce costs while continuing to provide the most affordable and reliable launch services to our customers.