NASA, Blue Origin Agreement Signals Rocketing Growth of Commercial Space

Test Stand 4670 (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Officials from NASA and the private space company Blue Origin have signed an agreement that grants the company use of a historic test stand as the agency focuses on returning to the Moon and on to Mars, and America’s commercial space industry continues to grow.

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of their BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle – both being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.”

Constructed in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Later, it was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility has been inactive since 1998.

“We’re excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners,” said Marshall Center Director Jody Singer. “This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built.”

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team was commissioned to begin exploring the proposed partnership.

“I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines,” said Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin. “Through this agreement, we’ll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.”

Under the agreement, Blue Origin will pay for the investments it makes to prepare the test stand for use, as well as any direct costs NASA incurs as a result of Blue Origin use of the stand, maximizing the value derived from taxpayer investment in government facilities.

To learn more about NASA’s strategic partnerships to advance America’s space exploration goals and commercial space industry, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/partnerships.html

 

  • ThomasLMatula

    “Rocketing Growth” Ugh…

  • Steve

    How much work does the stand need before they can start testing BE-4s there ?

  • windbourne

    If NASA was serious about getting lower costs of space, then they should get private space stations going. In fact, they should offer up a COTS approach NOW.

  • Jeff Smith

    As always happens, everything old is become new again.

    Never throw away the pieces, they always come in handy.

  • Larry J

    Back in 1966 when I was 9 years old, I watched a full duration static test of a Saturn V first stage. Perhaps it was on that test stand. Nine year old me was very impressed. Hell, 62 year old me would be very impressed. I’m glad Blue will be using that test stand. They’ve broken ground on their engine plant and ground preparation is underway.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Weren’t they using that stand to test the SSME and the SLS engines?

  • Jeff Smith

    The Marshall stands could be used for smaller engines tests (Saturn 1 stuff, a single SSME). Von Braun and his team liked to keep everything close, but they were too small/close to other things to test the big stuff (F1, or F1 clusters). That’s why they cleared the Mississippi Test Facility (MTF way before it became Stennis).

  • duheagle

    Hey, that was non-partisanly funny. Don’t discourage the man.

  • duheagle

    It’s been derelict for more than two decades in the deep and steamy South so I’m gonna hazard a guess that the answer is “lots.”