Kent-based Blue Origin broke ground Friday on the construction of a world-class rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, Ala., extending the city’s rich legacy in liquid rocket engines.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith made the following comments at the ground breaking ceremony, according to a Blue Origin media email:
“It’s a great day here in Rocket City. Thanks to the votes of confidence from United Launch Alliance, from the Air Force for national security missions, and from Huntsville and the state of Alabama, we are breaking ground on a facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.
Last September, United Launch Alliance (ULA) selected our BE-4 engine to power the Vulcan rocket. Then in October, both our New Glenn launch vehicle and Vulcan were selected by the United States Air Force in its Launch Services Agreement contract. This means two out of the three major launch systems flying national security space missions will be powered by engines produced in our Huntsville facility.
New Glenn will be a competitive launch vehicle that can serve all the needs of the civil, commercial and national security space markets for years to come.
We’re excited to provide safe, reliable access to space and – in the case of United Launch Alliance – end the dependency our nation has on using Russian RD-180 engines for critical national security launches.
The BE-4 is an incredibly sophisticated and powerful engine. It will be a true marvel of engineering when we complete its development later this year and it is currently rocking our test stands out in West Texas. Each ULA Vulcan first stage will have two of these BE-4 engines and they will be integrated into the vehicle just across the river at their Decatur facility. Seven BE-4s, with a combined thrust of nearly 4 million pounds, will also power the fully reusable first stage of Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch system.
We’ll also be building our BE-3U engine in Huntsville. It’s an upper-stage variant of our BE-3 liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen engine that we’re already flying on New Shepard. It’s the first completely new liquid hydrogen engine developed for production in the United States in more than a decade and New Shepard is giving us hours of experience operating it.
This project has been in the works for several years and we’re thankful to everyone who made it happen.
Thanks to Gov. Kay Ivey, Senator Richard Shelby, Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Commission Chairman Dale Strong, and the entire Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce for their commitment to bringing us to northern Alabama and making this day possible.
We’d also like to recognize Sen. Doug Jones, Rep. Mo Brooks and Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer for their continued support.
This engine production facility demonstrates our commitment to the state of Alabama. It also demonstrates our confidence that the highly-skilled workforce, deep aerospace history and strong business climate in Huntsville will play a critical role in advancing our vision of millions of people living and working in space.
Additionally, we are in final negotiations with Marshall Space Flight Center 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. Through this agreement, we’ll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history.
When we open our doors in Huntsville in March 2020, we will add more than 300 jobs to the local economy, invest over $200 million in the facility and ensure a new generation of engines will rumble to life and send us into the heavens.”
Blue Origin’s engineering, manufacturing and business teams work in a 260,000 square-foot facility on 26 acres in Kent. Bezos, also the founder of Amazon, is expanding the Kent facility after buying 31 acres in 2017 along 76th Avenue South between South 212th Street and South 218th Street. Blue Origin also has a rocket assembly and launch facility in Florida and a test site in Texas.
Blue Origin employes an estimated 1,100 in Kent, according to a study last fall by the Puget Sound Regional Council.