Bezos’ Blue Origin to deliver first flight-ready rocket engines next summer – ULA CEO

FILE PHOTO: The Blue Origin rocket facility in Cape Canaveral

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chief executive of United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint rocket venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, said it expects to receive two new rocket engines from billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin by next summer.

ULA, the Pentagon’s top launch contractor for national security satellites, had initially expected the shipment in 2020 for a debut flight in early 2021, but this was delayed by development hurdles.

The installation of Blue Origin’s reusable BE-4 engines into ULA’s next-generation Vulcan rocket will keep it on track for the debut launch of a moon lander dubbed Peregrine at the end of 2021, ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno said. The Vulcan rocket has won a slate of key U.S. defense missions through 2027.

“That is now our expectation, that Peregrine will go to space in the 4th quarter of 2021,” Bruno told reporters during a call on Thursday.

ULA picked Blue Origin’s BE-4 in 2018 to power Vulcan, a two-stage heavy-lift rocket that will succeed ULA’s Atlas 5 workhorse.

The delivery of Blue Origin’s BE-4 was delayed over an issue with the engine’s complex single-shaft turbopump, the part of a rocket engine that injects flammable propellants during ignition with forces of 80,000 horsepower. 

Those challenges are “all behind us now and we are very confident in the final configuration,” Bruno said. 

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)