Space flight company Blue Origin started construction on a $200 million, 200,000 square foot, rocket assembly facility in Huntsville, Alabama. The plant will produce the BE-4 rocket engine for future national security and other missions.
The facility will be built on 46 acres at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive in Cummings Research Park, and expected to create more than 300 jobs. The Huntsville manufacturing plant is expected to open in 2020, and the first flight test of the new engine is expected in 2021.
“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 facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.”
“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,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “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.”
The BE-4 is made for both commercial and government missions. The BE-4 uses oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 pounds of thrust. The BE-4 is currently undergoing full-scale engine development testing in company facilities in Van Horn, Texas. Blue Origin also plans to produce a variant of its BE-3 rocket engine at the Huntsville facility. The company is in discussions with NASA to test the engines on the historic test stands at Marshall Space Flight Center.
“I am pleased that Blue Origin has chosen to join the more than 200 ULA suppliers doing business here in Alabama,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno said. “The state of Alabama knows how to attract and help business grow and I could not be more thrilled to be part of the resurgence of rocket and engine development in the Tennessee Valley.”
“Blue Origin selected the perfect home for this new rocket engine manufacturing because Huntsville has been a center of innovation in rocket propulsion for decades,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“I look forward to seeing the lofty heights the partnership between this dynamic space flight company and Alabama’s historic Rocket City can reach in the future,” he added.