Blue Origin, NASA join hands for rocket engine test

Washington: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has entered into an agreement with Blue Origin to let the Jeff Bezos-owned private space company use a historic test stand for rocket engine test.

As per the deal, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of its BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines.

Built in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo programme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector — commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector,” he said.

The facility has been inactive since 1998. Under the agreement, Blue Origin will pay for investments it makes to prepare the test stand for use, as well as any direct costs NASA incurs as a result of Blue Origin’s use of the stand.

“We’re excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners,” said Marshall Centre Director Jody Singer. “This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built,” Singer said.

NASA identified the 300-foot vertical firing test stand as an underused facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use.

“I am thrilled about this partnership and NASA’s acceptance to test BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines,” said Bob Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Blue Origin.