Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Awarded Lucrative Military Contract

A rendering of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight

A rendering of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket in flight

"These awards are a leap forward in space launch capabilities, ensuring continued US dominance in space", said Dr. William Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Unlike the Atlas V rocket that the company now uses, the new rocket will uses engines made in the United States.

Currently, ULA and SpaceX are the only launch providers for national security payloads.

The Air Force on Wednesday awarded more than $2 billion in contracts combined to three companies to develop rockets capable of launching national security satellites, as part of an effort to increase competition. Finally, Blue Origin will receive $500 million to help in the development of its future New Glenn rocket, which are supposed to be able to come back to earth in one piece after launching their payloads - a technology SpaceX has already developed, and almost perfected.

Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance received contracts of $500 million and $967 million, respectively.

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Blue Origin will also build its own launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, switching coasts from its traditional site at Cape Canaveral, Florida. "These innovative public-private partnerships with industry provide a path to develop launch vehicles to assure access to space, address the urgent need to transition away from strategic foreign reliance, and provide responsive launch capabilities to the warfighter".

The Atlas 5's use of Russian-built RD-180 first stage engines has generated widespread controversy in recent years, but the new Vulcan Centaur will use two of Blue Origin's BE-4 engines in its first stage and Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engines in the Centaur second stage.

Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, central to the company's ambitions to reach the moon, will ferry defense payloads into space for the Air Force. The Air Force sought at least two US companies that could meet all of its requirements and needs over the coming years.

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