Blue Origin lands major rocket engine deal with ULA: Source

Morgan Stanley told clients earlier this month “to take notice” of Bezos investments in the space industry through Blue Origin, pointing to him as a “force” bringing financial muscle.

“We believe investors may want to pay far more attention to another emerging force for the advancement of efforts in Space that has both the will and, increasingly, the financial muscle to put to work,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a note.

Morgan Stanley estimated that Bezos’ Amazon shares are worth about $160 billion — “equal to around 16 years worth of NASA expenditures on Space exploration,” the firm said. Morgan Stanley advised its clients to take note of that comparison as Bezos’ wealth continues to grow. Blue Origin has “invested about $1 billion in the Space Coast,” Bezos said in his recent speech, with funds going to the company’s manufacturing facility and Launch Complex 36, which Blue Origin leased at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Blue Origin has spent “over seven years developing this engine to make it reusable,” CEO Bob Smith told CNBC on April 18. At the time, Smith said the company was “excited about the commercial opportunities” that BE-4 will provide.

“United Launch Alliance is the premier launch service provider for national security missions, and we’re thrilled to be part of their team and that mission,” Smith said in a statement Thursday.

Smith has also said before that the engine was “certainly demonstrating all the technical characteristics” that ULA needs for Vulcan – but Blue Origin expects to be able to sell BE-4 to other rocket companies, too.

“We’re going to offer it to whoever else will come out and say they need a new engine,” Smith said at the time.

Reusability remains the emphasis of Blue Origin, which already has launched and landed its smaller New Shepard rocket multiple times.

Each BE-4 engine is designed to complete “100 full missions,” Smith said in April. Reusability provides tremendous cost savings of 50 to 75 percent, Smith said — a claim made more believable by SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket coming with a price tag of just $150 million, at most.

The first launches of New Glenn and Vulcan are not expected before 2020, the companies have said. Vulcan and New Glenn are expected to compete with Falcon Heavy on cost and power – but SpaceX remains undaunted.

New Glenn will be a monstrous vehicle, standing as high as 313 feet, with seven BE-4 engines powering each rocket. The Vulcan rocket is 191 feet and capable of launching a more than 7 tons of payload into orbit. Falcon Heavy, on other hand, stands 230 feet tall and, after its launch in February, is the world’s most powerful rocket since NASA’s Saturn V.

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