Press Release

Blue Origin Opens Huntsville Engine Factory (with fact sheet)

By SpaceRef Editor
February 17, 2020
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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.


• Founded: 2000

• Founder: Jeff Bezos

• CEO: Bob Smith

• Employees: Nearly 3,000

• HQ: Kent, Washington

• Other Facilities: Cape Canaveral, Florida; Van Horn, Texas; Huntsville, Alabama; Los Angeles,


• Company Motto: “Gradatim Ferociter” – Step by step ferociously


• Alabama engine manufacturing facility: Opening Feb 2020

• New Shepard’s first human flight: Targeting 2020

• New Glenn launch (first orbital flight): Targeting late 2021

• BE-4 Engine Qualification: Targeting 2020


Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos with the vision to enable a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. Blue believes we must protect Earth by movingheavy industries that stress our planet into space, and enable humanity to access space to expand, explore, and find new energy and material resources. Then we can see a dynamic and abundant future for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. There is no plan B for  Earth. To enable this future, we must build a road to space to lower the cost of getting there. Blue is workingon this today by developing operationally reusable launch vehicles that are safe, reliable and highly available. Every launch vehicle is designed for human spaceflight from the beginning and able to ferry payloads to space. Join the mission to build a road to space – step by step  ferociously.


Named after Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, New Shepard is Blue Origin’s fully reusable suborbital launch vehicle designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Kármán line (100km), the internationally recognized boundary of space, then return them safely to Earth.

New Shepard has been designed from the beginning to be operationally reusable, meaning it requires minimal refurbishment between flights. Operational reuse is the key to a radical reduction in the cost of access to space, which is a gate to achieving Blue’s longer-term vision of millions of people living and working in space to benefit Earth.

All the learnings from the New Shepard program are being applied to Blue’s orbital launch vehicle New Glenn as well as the Blue Moon lunar lander. Both these vehicles are leveraging New Shepard’s autonomy, guidance, vertical landing architecture, powerful and throttleable liquid engines, and lean operations.

Fast Facts:

• Launches: New Shepard is currently launching from Blue’s West Texas launch site in Van Horn, Texas. The launch vehicle has completed 12 successful consecutive launches, 11 consecutive successful booster landings, 3 successful escape tests (from the pad, mid-flight at Max Q and in the vacuum of space – proving astronauts will be safe in any phase of flight), and 13 consecutive successful crew capsule landings (including a pad escape). One of the New Shepard boosters has flown five times consecutively, and the other has flown six times consecutively – both with minimal refurbishment between flights.

• Build: The system is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle – the only of its kind. New Shepard has been designed from the beginning to be operationally reusable, meaning it requires minimal refurbishment between flights. It has also been designed from the beginning for human flight.

• Latest Mission: The most recent mission on December 11, 2019 was a complete success. It was the 6th consecutive successful launch and landing for the vehicle (a record), further verified the system towards human flight, and flew thousands of postcards to space for Blue Origin’s nonprofit Club for the Future.

Flight Profile:

• The New Shepard launch vehicle is designed to take both people and payloads on an 11-minute journey to space, past the Kármán line (100km) – before returning safely back to Earth.

• The launch vehicle takes off vertically, then the capsule separates near space at about 250,000 feet (76 kilometers) and continues on to space to reach an apogee of 350,000 feet (106 kilometers).

• The launch vehicle is completely autonomous: every person onboard is a passenger – there are no pilots.

• After separation from the capsule, the booster autonomously makes its way back down to Earth for a pinpoint landing on the landing pad – about two miles away from where the vehicle lifted off.

• Meanwhile, the capsule gives astronauts or payloads on board over three minutes of weightlessness gazing out the largest windows to have ever flown in space.

• The capsule then enters a stable free fall back to Earth, then three drogue chutes are deployed before three main chutes. This occurs at several thousand feet to slow down the vehicle for landing.

• Right before touching down, a retro thrust system expels a cloud of air beneath the capsule to create a gentle landing around 1 mph in the West Texas desert. Payloads Program:

• On the way to demonstrating the system is ready for human spaceflight, New Shepard has launched several successful missions with commercial payloads on board from around the globe.

• New Shepard’s flight profile makes it an ideal platform for microgravity physics, gravitational biology, tech demos, art projects and educational programs. Earth, atmospheric and space science research are all possible on New Shepard.

• A core partner on these flights is NASA Flight Opportunities program, who funds payloads from universities and research institutions to fly on New Shepard.

• These experiments advance science, technology, education and art.

Human Flight:

• To prepare for human flights, Blue has been rigorously testing all the safety systems of the vehicle throughout the flight test program. For example, the escape system on board has been successfully tested three times (from the pad, mid-flight at Max Q and in the vacuum of space) – proving astronauts will be safe in any phase of flight.

• Blue will fly astronauts as soon as it’s safe and is targeting 2020.

• There are several verification test flights before flying astronauts.


Named after John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, New Glenn is a single- configuration, heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle capable of carrying people and payloads routinely to low Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, cislunar and beyond. Its first stage is fully reusable and built for 25 missions initially. New Glenn is currently being built in Blue’s state-of-the-art rocket factory in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It will launch from historic Launch Complex LC-36, which Blue is rebuilding from the ground up and includes the integration facility, refurbishment, fuel, environmental control center, and launch pad. New Glenn was developed from the beginning to be human capable. The technology and operations developed for New Shepard are being applied directly to New Glenn. For example, a variant of the BE-3 engine that powers New Shepard will be used to power New Glenn’s upper stage – making it the most understood upper stage on the market when it flies in late 2021. To date, Blue Origin has invested an unprecedented $2.5 billion into the development of New Glenn and its facilities. New Glenn is the only vehicle that can serve the needs of all national security/DOD, civil and commercial missions with one configuration. The vehicle is gaining market interest with several commercial customers, and Blue was awarded a contract for $500 million from the United States Air Force for developing capabilities to serve national security missions.

Recent progress:

• System Critical Design Review (CDR) complete in 2019

• Construction on launch complex 36 has gone vertical

• Tanks currently in production

• Launch agreements with three of the six largest satellite operators in the world

• Launch Platform Vehicle (LPV) purchased and currently in refurbishment in Port Pensacola, FL

Fast Facts:

• Reusability: Designed for operational reusability from the beginning, New Glenn is powered by seven of Blue’s BE-4 engines, the world’s most powerful liquid oxygen/liquefied natural gas engine. Together, the seven engines generate up to 3.85 million pounds of thrust, or roughly half the size of Saturn V’s thrust.

• Payload Capability: New Glenn will launch payloads over 13 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit and 45 metric tons to low Earth orbit. The vehicle has the capability to launch to cislunar. New Glenn is capable of fulfilling the needs of all commercial, civil and national security missions with one configuration.

• Build: New Glenn’s 7-meter fairing has two times the payload volume of any 5-meter class commercial launch system. The vehicle is also able to launch and land in 95% of weather conditions.

• First customers: Eutelsat, Sky Perfect JSAT, Telesat, United States Air Force.


Operationally reusable launch vehicles demand high performance engines capable of a multitude of missions and deep throttling for soft landings. Blue Origin’s family of engines—BE-3PM, BE-3U, BE-4 and BE-7—are powering the next generation of launch vehicles for commercial, civil, national security and human spaceflight. Blue’s engines are designed, developed and manufactured at Blue’s headquarters in Kent, Washington presently, while Blue builds a world-class, high-rate engine production facility in Huntsville, Alabama, for the BE-4 and BE-3U. The BE-3PM is currently in service with New Shepard, while the BE-4, BE-3U and BE-7 are all in development and actively testing. The BE-4 engine will power two next generation American launch vehicles—assuring U.S. access to space for decades to come.

Recent Progress:

• BE-3PM: The engine has 11 flights with a standard engine on time of over 170 seconds per flight for a total of over 1,800 seconds of flight time.

• BE-3U: The Thrust Chamber Demonstrator has completed over 2,100 seconds of test.

• BE-4: Achieved full power in 2019 and qualifying the engine late 2020. Delivery of engines to ULA support Vulcan’s development activities and planned first launch in 2021.

• BE-7: The lunar landing engine started hotfiring in 2019 and is currently in test at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center in partnership with NASA. In total, BE-7 has accrued more than 13 minutes of total test time (more than 780 seconds) on multiple test articles with the most for any single test article being up to 3-minutes of continuous test time.

• Test Stand 4670 at NASA Marshall in Huntsville, AL: Refurbishment on the historic test stand has begun.

Fast Facts:

• BE-4: The first large oxygen-rich staged combustion engine made in the U.S. will power two vehicles in the next generation of American orbital rockets (Blue’s New Glenn and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan). BE-4 is the most powerful liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled rocket engine ever developed. Using an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle, BE-4 is capable of producing 2,400 kN (550,000 lbf) thrust with deep throttle capability.

• BE-3PM: This engine has completed 11 successful flights to space with New Shepard. BE-3PM is designed for operational reusability with minimal maintenance between flights and uses high-performing liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. At full throttle, BE-3PM generates 490 kN (110,000 lbf) thrust at sea level (over a million horsepower). When returning to Earth, it uniquely throttles down to 90 kN (20,000 lbf), enabling a controlled and gentle vertical landing on the pad.

• BE-3U Upper Stage Variant: A variant of BE-3PM, BE-3U is optimized to operate in the vacuum of space. Two BE-3U engines power New Glenn’s restartable upper stage, enabling the full range of customer missions including direct injection to geostationary orbit. BE-3U generates 710 kN (160,000 lbf) thrust in vacuum. When the BE-3U first flies on New Glenn in 2021, it will be the most understood upper stage engine on the market.

• BE-7: In development for several years, the BE-7 is a highly efficient, deep-throttling engine with restart capability that can power in-space systems, including our Blue Moon lunar lander. The highly throttleable BE-7 has a thrust of 40 kN (10,000 lbf), which enables large lunar payload transport. The engine’s propellants are a highly efficient combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, which can be found in abundance in the water ice on the lunar surface. Blue has hotfired the BE-7 lunar landing engine multiple times at Marshall Space Flight Center. The engine is offered to other companies for their in-space applications.

Huntsville, Alabama

• Blue has built a world-class, high-rate engine production facility in Huntsville, Alabama, for the BE-4 and BE-3U. The 350,000-sq-ft site opened in February 2020.

• Dozens of BE-4 and BE-3U engines will be produced there.

• More than 300 jobs will be brought to the local economy.

• Blue is investing over $200 million in this facility.

• Blue chose Huntsville because of its skilled workforce and leading role in rocket propulsion.

• The engines will be tested at Test Stand 4670, the historic site at Marshall Space Flight for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engine.

• Blue has begun refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – to bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.


Blue Origin is developing advanced technologies to enable space exploration and development, including a NASA Tipping Point contract to mature cryogenic liquid propulsion for integrated large-scale lunar lander applications and several years of progress on the Blue Moon Lunar Lander and its BE-7 lunar landing engine.

BLUE MOON LUNAR LANDER In development for several years, the Blue Moon lunar lander is capable of delivering several metric tons to the lunar surface. The flexibility of the system enables the delivery of a wide variety of small, medium and large payloads to the Moon – depending on the configuration.

Recent Progress

• Blue Origin proposed to NASA to be the prime contractor for a Human Landing System (HLS) team that includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Blue will build upon its experience in developing the Blue Moon cargo lander with a derivative Descent Element. Blue believes this is a strong national team for a national priority to go back to the Moon – this time to stay.

• The BE-7 lunar landing engine started hotfiring in the summer of 2019 and is currently in test at NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center in partnership with NASA. In total, BE-7 has accrued more than 13 minutes of total test time (more than 780 seconds) on multiple test articles with the most for any single test article being up to 3-minutes of continuous test time.

• In December 2019, Blue signed a 15-year cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for testing of Blue Origin’s BE-7 engine at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. Blue will provide capital improvements to the facility where engine testing will occur.

• Blue Origin is currently performing trade studies under a NASA Next STEP-2 Appendix E contract to mature our Blue Moon lunar lander and related technologies to serve as Elements of NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) architecture.

• Blue Origin is a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. And is eligible to bid on proposals to provide deliveries to the surface of the Moon. Fast Facts

• Blue Moon is a large cargo vehicle that can soft-land several metric tons of payload to the lunar surface.

• The lander and its BE-7 lunar landing engine have been in development for three years.

• The Descent Element proposed for HLS is a derivative of the work Blue has done on the cargo lander.

• Blue Moon Descent Element vehicle variants can meet a range of delivery capabilities anywhere on the Moon’s surface, including a vehicle delivered to the lunar South Pole.

• The lander’s autonomy, guidance, vertical landing architecture, powerful and throttleable liquid engines, and lean operations – are all derived directly from technologies developed and in service on New Shepard.

Science Advisory board:

• The Blue Moon Science Advisory board, chaired by Blue Origin’s Chief Scientist – Dr. Steve Squyres, includes Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Dr. Bradley L. Jolliff, Dr. Jeff Taylor, Dr. Dean Eppler, Dr. Ryan Watkins and Dr. Phil Metzger.

• This team provides scientific guidance for mission scenarios, payload opportunities, and operations experience going back to Apollo.


Blue Origin founded the nonprofit Club for the Future to inspire youth to pursue careers in STEM and visualize life in space. The organization brings together teachers and K-12 students from around the world to engage in activities giving youth access to space through Blue Origin’s reusable rockets. For the first activity, the Club asked K-12 students around the world to send Blue postcards with their dreams ofthe future. Blue Origin will fly the postcards on an upcoming New Shepard launch  above the Kármán line into space, then mail them back to each student. This is the first of many ways the Club will give our youth access to space through Blue Origin. Learn more on the website ( and submit a postcard. Follow @ClubforFuture on Twitter and Instagram.

“It’s this generations job to build that road to space – so that the future generations can unleash their


-Jeff Bezos

SpaceRef staff editor.