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ULA will delay its final decision on the engine it will use for its new Vulcan rocket until Blue Origin successfully completes a scheduled static fire engine test, originally schedule for late this year but possibly delayed until 2017.
“It’s really tied not so much to the calendar but to a technical event,” [Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA,] said of the schedule for an engine decision. “We want to have a full-scale static firing of the BE-4, so that we understand that it’s going to hit its performance and it’s going to be stable…. That may occur by the end of the year, but I could see it moving into the spring a little bit, to make sure we have enough test data and we feel confident about where we’re at,” he added.
He emphasized that the BE-4 remained the “primary path” to be used on the first stage of the Vulcan, ahead of the AR1 engine under development by Aerojet Rocketdyne. “They’re out in front,” Bruno said of the BE-4.
This engine test is not only critical for ULA, but its success will help firm up Blue Origin’s developmental schedule for its just announced New Glenn rocket.
Bruno’s comments at the link also suggest that ULA, like Arianespace, is pushing to grab some of the customers of SpaceX and Russia, both of whom are now experiencing launch delays.