WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the Blue Origin company have signed a production deal that derails plans to provide a Russian engine for the US next-generation Vulcan booster rocket.
"ULA and Blue Origin LLC announced [on Thursday] the signing of an agreement to expand production capabilities for the American-made BE-4engine that will power the Vulcan next generation launch system," the two companies stated in a press release.
Blue Origin is a privately-funded aerospace company owned byAmazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper.
"The BE-4 engine offers the fastest path to a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180," the release said.
"This agreement gets us closer to having an affordable, domestic and innovative engine that will help the Vulcan rocket exceed the capability of the Atlas V on its first flight and open brand new opportunities for the nation’s use of space," ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno said in the press release.
Bruno claimed Blue Origin would introduce innovative engineering concepts that could lower the cost of spaceflight.
"The BE-4 engine test program is well underway with more than 60 staged-combustion tests already on the books," Blue Origin-founder Bezos said in the press release. "This new agreement is an important step toward building BE-4s at the production rate needed for the Vulcan launch vehicle."
The BE-4 is a liquid oxygen, liquefied natural gas rocket engine that delivers 550,000-lbf of thrust at sea level. Two BE-4s would power each ULA Vulcan booster, providing 1,100,000-lbf thrust at liftoff, according to the press release.
ULA has successfully delivered more than 95 satellites to orbit.