Quick Links
Quick Links

United Launch Alliance selects Blue Origin to supply engines for massive Vulcan rocket being built in North Alabama

Vulcan Centaur (Courtesy: ulalaunch.com)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (September 27, 2018) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today it has selected Blue Origin to supply its next-generation engine BE-4 for the first stage of the massive Vulcan Centaur rocket that ULA is building at its Decatur manufacturing facility.

The Vulcan Centaur rocket is a new heavy lift vehicle that will replace ULA’s Atlas V Rocket, which is set for retirement in the early 2020s. ULA says the Vulcan Centaur’s design leverages the proven success of the Delta IV and Atlas launch vehicles, while introducing advanced technologies and innovative features. ULA marked its 130th consecutive successful launch earlier this month.

“Vulcan Centaur will revolutionize spaceflight and provide affordable, reliable access to space for our current and future customers,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s President and CEO. “We are well on our way to the introduction of Vulcan Centaur – the future of U.S. rocket manufacturing. With state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing techniques, this rocket is designed specifically for low recurring cost.”

Thursday’s announcement by ULA clears the way for Blue Origin to build its BE-4 engine plant on 46 acres in Cummings Research Park in Huntsville, Alabama. Blue Origin announced the project in June 2017, contingent on winning the ULA contract.

“Congratulations to United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin! After a lengthy due diligence period by United Launch Alliance, today’s announcement marks the beginning of U.S. independence for a variety of space travel missions to include future deep space voyages,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Huntsville is proud that both Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne will play a major role in ULA’s production of the Vulcan Centaur rocket. Huntsville led the U.S. propulsion revolution in the 60s, and we continue to do so with a thriving industry of rocket scientists and rocket producers. This is what we do better than anyone else in the world.”

The Blue Origin site is located in the western portion of Cummings Research Park, at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive. The project will be built in two phases and includes 400 new jobs for the Rocket City. Blue Origin said it hopes to break ground soon.

“Today’s announcement by United Launch Alliance awarding Blue Origin the contract to utilize their BE-4 Engine to propel ULA’s Vulcan Rocket is great news for Madison County and all of North Alabama. There is no doubt that Madison County is the propulsion capital of the World,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. “This contract builds on our legacy and history of propulsion in North Alabama. Just as our community has accepted the challenges in propulsion for more than 50 years, this opportunity will allow the Rocket City to once again showcase our advanced manufacturing and aerospace engineering expertise, along with our ability to test rocket engines locally.”

ULA announced earlier this year that they had selected Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine to power Vulcan’s upper stage. ULA currently uses the RL10 for its Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.

News coverage:

AL.com: Bezos’ Blue Origin wins rocket engine contract, Alabama plant coming

WAFF.com: Blue Origin wins ULA engine contract, will build facility in Huntsville

WHNT.com: Blue Origin is official choice for new ULA rocket’s booster engines

WAAYTV.com: United Launch Alliance selects Blue Origin as partner to build rocket system