NASA, Blue Origin Agreement Signals Rocketing Growth of Commercial Space

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670, at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of their BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. Constructed in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Credits: NASA

Officials from NASA and the private space company Blue Origin have signed an agreement that grants the company use of a historic test stand as the agency focuses on returning to theMoon and on to Mars, and Americas commercial space industry continues to grow.

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbishTest Stand 4670, at NASAs Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to support testing of their BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliances new Vulcan rocket and Blue Origins New Glenn launch vehicle both being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

This test stand once helped power NASAs 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.

Constructed in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Later, it was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility has been inactive since 1998.

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

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team was commissioned to begin exploring the proposed partnership.

I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both 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. Through this agreement, well provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.

Under the agreement, Blue Origin will pay for the investments it makes to prepare the test stand for use, as well as any direct costs NASA incurs as a result of Blue Origin use of the stand, maximizing the value derived from taxpayer investment in government facilities.

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