Blue Origin team and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey have broken ground on a modern rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, a city in the US state of Alabama.
The plant will be constructed on a 46-acre site located at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive in Cummings Research Park and is expected to generate more than 300 new jobs.
Governor Ivey said: “Blue Origin is a welcome addition to Alabama’s roster of world-class aerospace firms, and its new rocket engine facility in Huntsville will expand the state’s already robust capabilities in space flight.
“Blue Origin is making a significant investment in Huntsville, and I’m certain the company will discover the many benefits of doing business in Sweet Home Alabama’s aerospace cluster.”
In September 2018, United Launch Alliance (ULA) selected Blue Origin for the supply of next-generation Blue Engine 4 (BE-4) for the first stage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket.
Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said: “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.”
BE-4, the most powerful LNG-fuelled rocket engine, uses an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle and is capable of producing 2,447kN (550,000lbf) thrust with deep throttle capability.
It is currently undergoing full-scale engine development testing at the company facilities in Van Horn, Texas.
Production will take place in Blue Origin’s new engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Alabama.
The BE-4 is intended for commercial and government missions and the production of the engine is expected to end the country’s dependence on Russia for access to space for critical national security space systems.
The Huntsville plant is expected to open in 2020 and the first flight test of the new engine is expected in 2021.
The rocket manufacturing plant is the latest addition to Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the US and fourth largest in the world.
Image: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Blue Origin officials break ground on a rocket engine production facility in Huntsville. Photo: Courtesy of Office of the Governor, State of Alabama.