Blue Origin to build rocket engine for Atlas 5

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The competition heats up: Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin has signed a contract with the United Launch Alliance to build a rocket engine for the Atlas 5 rocket so that it will no longer have to depend on Russian engines.

Neither executive [of either company] would discuss a dollar figure, although it’s likely somewhat less than $1 billion. Bruno said a typical liquid-fueled rocket engine takes seven years and $1 billion to develop, but Blue Origin is already several years along on the BE-4. Bruno said the engine could be ready within four years to serve as the main engine on the company’s Atlas V rockets.

This is excellent news, because it shows that ULA is being pro-active in solving this problem, rather then waiting for Congress to act.



  • Andy Hill

    If they change the engine it will no longer be an Atlas 5 and will require certification just like any new rocket. this is especially true as I have read that the new engine being developed by blue origin has a thrust of 500,000lb meaning that two would be required instead of the single RD180 currently used. I wonder whether they will find any short cuts with the USAF or if the rocket development will be funded by the US government.

  • Steve C

    If they are going to have to redesign the rocket, why not use the F-1? More thrust and a better thrust to weight ratio than the RD180, and NASA is already working on it for the SLS.

  • Andy Hill

    I Think the F-1 engine would not be a good replacement. Setting aside the fact that none have been produced for 40 years and the cost of getting a production line up and running again would be as much as a new engine.

    The F1 had a lower ISP (304 compared to the RD180’s 339) and the amount of thrust is to large (7740kN verses 4512kn for RD180). So why replace it with an old design which is much to powerful and less efficient which would cost more to create than a new design?

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