Blue Origin Breaks Ground on $200-Million Rocket Production Facility
Staff posted on January 30, 2019 |
Huntsville, Alabama plant will employ 300 to build BE-4 and BE-3U rocket engines.
Pictured left to right: Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce; Kim Lewis, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber 2019 Board Chair; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Alabama Governor Kay Ivey; United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno; Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith; Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong; U.S. Senator Doug Jones; U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks; Clayco CEO Bob Clark. (Image courtesy of Blue Origin.)
Pictured left to right: Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce; Kim Lewis, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber 2019 Board Chair; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Alabama Governor Kay Ivey; United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno; Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith; Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong; U.S. Senator Doug Jones; U.S. Congressman Mo Brooks; Clayco CEO Bob Clark. (Image courtesy of Blue Origin.)

Private aerospace company, Blue Origin, recently broke ground on the construction of a new rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, Alabama. The $200-million plant will be built on 46 acres and includes more than 300 new jobs.

“It’s a great day here in Rocket City,” said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin. “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 world-class facility to produce our engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.”

Blue Origin was selected by United Launch Alliance (ULA) in September of last year to supply its next-generation Blue Engine 4, or BE-4, for the first stage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket.

The BE-4 engine is the most powerful liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled rocket engine ever developed. Using an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle, BE-4 is capable of producing 2,447 kN of thrust with deep throttle capability. BE-4 is currently undergoing full-scale engine development testing in company facilities in Van Horn, Texas. Full rate production will take place in Blue Origin’s new engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

Students from three local high schools received a special invitation to attend the ground breaking in Huntsville to display projects they have been working on for the past year.

Engineering classes from Bob Jones High School in Madison, New Century Technology High School in Huntsville and Sparkman High School in Madison County are participating in a collaborative project called DreamUp. Each class is creating a payload that will launch on a future Blue Origin New Shepard mission. The projects will be enclosed in small cubesats weighing less than 1.1 pounds; one will test if voltage is affected by microgravity using a Raspberry Pi, and another will test the electrical current created by heat transfer in space.

“This engine production facility demonstrates our commitment to the state of Alabama,” said Smith. “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.”

The Huntsville manufacturing plant is expected to open in 2020, and the first flight test of the new engine is expected in 2021.

For more information on Blue Origin and its competitors, check out our feature “Who Will Win the Private Sector Space Race?”

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