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Blue Origin, the space company of Amazon-CEO Jeff Bezos, now also sells rocket motors. The rocket maker United Launch Alliance has announced that it has chosen the company’s BE-4 rocket motor for its new Vulcan Centaur rocket. In doing so, Bezos’ company defeated the better-known Aerojet Rocketdyne, which developed the AR1 engine.

“We are pleased to have entered into this partnership with Blue Origin and look forward to a successful first flight of the next generation of our launch vehicle,” said Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch, opposite Ars Technica. The Vulcan Centaur should make its first flight in mid-2020.

Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin, says he is very happy that his bike has been chosen. “United Launch Alliance is the leading launch provider for national security missions, and we are excited to be part of its team and mission. We cannot thank Tory Bruno and the entire United Launch Alliance team enough for their confidence in our bike.”


The BE-4 engine uses a relatively new type of fuel: methane. The engine has a thrust of £550,000 at sea level, which is 25 percent more powerful than the main engine on the space shuttle. It is even the most powerful rocket motor designed and built to use methane.

The engine is for the most part financed by Jeff Bezos, at no direct cost to taxpayers. Bezos probably spent nearly a billion dollars on financing. Until a few years ago, rocket engines were almost entirely financed by government contracts.

The United Launch Alliance chose the BE-4 partly because it probably finished faster and probably cost less to buy. Every Vulcan rocket must use two motors.


Another difference was that Aerojet was unable to make any clear progress at a certain moment. Blue Origin started testing the engine in October 2017, while Aerojet spent less of its own money on developing the AR1. In the spring it stopped spending all of its own money on development.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.