Blue Origin breaks ground on Huntsville rocket engine plant
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A rocket company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos broke ground Friday on a new $200 million engine plant in north Alabama.
Company and government officials attended the groundbreaking ceremony in Huntsville for the rocket engine plant. The facility will make Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to power a new generation of launch vehicles produced by United Launch Alliance.
“It’s a great day here in Rocket City,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said at the groundbreaking ceremony, according to news outlets.
Huntsville has had the nickname Rocket City for the city’s longstanding ties to the nation’s space program.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said the project will create more than 300 jobs in Huntsville.
The rocket engine plant is expected to open in 2020. The first test flight of the new engine is expected in 2021.
Blue Origin announced in 2017 its intent to locate in Huntsville but at the time, the move was contingent on production contracts being signed. United Launch Alliance in September officially selected Blue Origin to supply engines for the company’s Vulcan launch vehicle, which is designed to carry heavy payloads into space.
According to the company’s website, the powerful BE-4 engine is fueled by liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 pounds (250,000 kilograms) of thrust and is intended to be used in both government and commercial missions.
The Alabama Development office said in 2017 that the state offered an incentive package of more than $50 million, including a $30 million tax credit for investment and up to $10 million in reimbursements for eligible capital costs.