HUNTSVILLE, Ala., February 17, 2020 (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin opened its rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, AL. The world-class engine manufacturing facility in The Rocket City will conduct high rate production of the BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will undergo testing at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center on the historic Test Stand 4670. BE-7, our lunar landing engine, is also currently in test at NASA Marshall.
“At the core of every successful launch vehicle program are the engines that power those vehicles to space. Early on in Blue Origin’s history, we made a crucial decision to invest in developing the next generation of reusable rocket engines. And now, it’s an exciting time for Blue, our partners and this country –we are on the path to deliver on our promise to end the reliance on Russian made engines – and it’s all happening right here, right now, in the great state of Alabama. We couldn’t be prouder to call this our home for engine production,” said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin.
Blue will add more than 300 jobs to the local economy with an investment of over $200 million in the facility.
Here is a video of the BE-4 engine progress.
CNBC reports that Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has sold more shares in his Amazon company.
The series of sales began on Jan. 31, the filings show, and continued through Feb. 3, and were executed under a pre-arranged trading plan. In total, Bezos sold 905,456 shares in the company for $1.84 billion, according to the filings.
Bezos has said he will sell Amazon shares to help fund his Blue Origin space company. He made similar sales of stock in 2017 and 2019.
The sales became publicly known as Amazon’s market capitalization topped $1 trillion.
Mills served as vice president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Communications from February 2018 until January 2020. Previous to that, she served as Starbucks’ vice president for global communications for six years.
I would see the hiring of Mills as a sign that Blue Origin is going to ramp up its media operations. Jeff Bezos doesn’t hire someone of that stature to continue the company’s low-level activities.
Blue Origins President Bob Smith said last year the company would fly New Shepard with people after conducting two more automated flights. The first of those launches took place in December. So there could be a major ramp up in that area.
Blue Origin also has a lot of other things on its plate. The company is:
- developing the New Glenn rocket for orbital missions;
- building a new engine for ULA’s Vulcan booster;
- bidding on a major U.S. Air Force launch contract;
- competing to build NASA’s human lunar lander for the Artemis program;
- bidding on NASA’s CLPS task orders to deliver payloads to the moon; and,
- developing a rival to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband constellation.
Whatever the outcome of these efforts, the company needs an experience public relations professional to navigate the sometimes turbulent media seas.
NASA Flight Opportunities Program Q&A
University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.
More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights.(more…)
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory and Blue Origin are developing a new test facility for the Blue Origin BE-7 lunar lander engine at the AFRL rocket lab here.
Capital improvements, funded by Blue Origin, will allow BE-7 testing in a simulated space-like environment. Planned work includes adding liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellant capabilities, along with other facility upgrades.(more…)
by Douglas Messier
Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.
There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:
- Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
- Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
- the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
KENT, Wa. (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin opened our new headquarters and R&D facility in Kent, Washington. The facility is Blue Origin’s hub of operations as we continue to grow our team. Below are excerpts from remarks given by Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith at today’s ribbon cutting event.
“2019 was a great year of progress and preparation for us, and 2020 is going to be even more remarkable – so we’re growing quickly. We grew by a third last year and we’re going to continue to grow at a rapid pace.(more…)
Spaceflight Now reports that SpaceX is completing plans for a mobile service tower so the company can integrate U.S. military satellites onto its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while they are in a vertical position on Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The tower will surround Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets at pad 39A, shielding the vehicles from storms and high winds and providing a controlled environment for ground crews to hoist heavy satellites and mount them on top of the launch vehicles in a vertical configuration.
SpaceX currently installs satellites, already cocooned inside their payload shrouds, onto Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets horizontally inside hangars near the company’s launch pads. But some of thee U.S. government’s most sensitive intelligence-gathering satellites, some of which come with billion-dollar or higher price tags, are designed to be mounted on their launch vehicles vertically.
SpaceX officials said the vertical integration capability is required for participants in the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement. The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center — now part of the U.S. Space Force — released a request for proposals for the Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement last May.
The military plans to select two companies later this year to launch the Pentagon’s most critical satellite missions from 2022 through 2026. The military’s incumbent National Security Space Launch providers — United Launch Alliance and SpaceX — are competing for the lucrative contracts with newcomers Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin for the Phase 2 contracts.
by Douglas Messier
A group of original shareholders in the defunct Firefly Space Systems have accused co-founder and CEO Tom Markusic of fraudulently conspiring with Ukrainian billionaire Maxym Polyakov to force the rocket company into bankruptcy in 2017 and reconstitute it under a nearly identical name without giving them any stake in the new venture.
Markusic “betrayed the trust of his original co-founders and investors and committed fraud to cut them out of his aerospace company. Instead of managing the operations of the Original Firefly, a revolutionary rocket company with endless potential, Markusic schemed with…Maxym Polyakov…to rob Plaintiffs of their investments and form a new company called Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (the ‘New Firefly’),” the plaintiffs said in a lawsuit.(more…)
Blue Origin launched its New Shepard rocket and capsule from its spaceport in West Texas on Thursday. The capsule reached an unofficial altitude of 43,061 ft (104.56 km/65.97 miles) and a speed of 2,227 mph (3,584 kph) during a flight that lasted 10 minutes 16 seconds. The booster touched down on a landing pad; the capsule came down under three parachutes nearby.
New Shepard Mission NS-12 Notable Payloads Manifested
Club for the Future
Thousands of postcards from students around the world from Blue Origin’s Club for the Future. The Club’s mission is to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help visualize the future of life in space.
Earlier this year we partnered with rock band OK Go on a contest called Art in Space, giving high school and middle school students a chance to send art experiments into space on our New Shepard vehicle. We are sending the two winning art projects on NS-12.
One of our educational payloads from Columbia University, designed and built by undergraduate students and advised by Dr. Michael Massimino (an astronaut), will study the acute impacts of microgravity environments on cell biology. This is crucial for humans living and working in space.
OSCAR, which was led by principal investigator Dr. Annie Meier, is a recycling technology payload from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It is designed to create a mixture of gasses that could be used for propulsion or life support from common waste on a deep space human exploration mission. This is Blue’s first full-stack payload, meaning there will be more room to do complex studies in flight.
By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
What happens to the genes of organisms as they travel from the ground, through Earth’s atmosphere and into space? Does their expression change? Are the changes subtle or dramatic? Do they happen quickly or gradually?
Answering such fundamental research questions is essential to our understanding of the impact of space travel on humans and other organisms. Two researchers from the University of Florida in Gainesville have been chipping away at the answers since the 1990s—using plants.(more…)